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I saw a headline:

Do the media exploit personal tragedy?

This sounds wrong to me, I would've have written "Does the media exploit personal tragedy?".

Which is correct?

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Related if not a dupe: "all the media is" vs. "all the media are" – RegDwigнt Jan 17 '14 at 14:01
Related to a ' good ' English understander and dupe to a 'great' English understander.btw,single word request for understander. – Argot Jan 17 '14 at 17:35
up vote 11 down vote accepted

media, like audience, crowd, committee, herd, public and family, is a collective noun and is addressed as such. It is understood that media is made up of not only many news sources, but many types (television, radio, movies, etc.) as well. The singular component is called a medium.

There are, further, so called collective nouns, which are singular when we think of them as groups and plural when we think of the individuals acting within the whole (which happens sometimes, but not often).

David Letterman apologizes to his wife through the medium of television.

We do not say, do the public approve of these restrictions? (AmE, some difference in BrE and others.)

Even so, sometimes media is treated as a plural, not collective, noun, so we do see examples such as

Do the media fairly explore issues, or do they impose their own positions? The influence of the media is increased by the fact that campaigns today have ...

This is probably done often enough (BrE and others) to be seen as a style issue, hence the confusion (esp. to AmE speakers/readers.)

edited to add:

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I think of a 'collective noun' as something like a 'herd' of cows, a 'pride' of lions, a 'flock' of birds, a 'gaggle' of geese etc. But if we are going to call 'the media' such (though I'm not entirely convinced we should), then the answer is simple. The British apply a plural verb, (the team ARE playing well, United ARE winning), and Americans a singular (Norwich IS beating Chelsea). I'm not sure how it works with the Washington Redskins or Dallas Cowboys. – WS2 Jan 17 '14 at 10:32
You claim that "We do not say, do the public approve of these restrictions?", but of course we do. (Unless "we" refers only to speakers of American English.) This is a well-known difference (consider "the committee were unable to agree", "Spain are the champions", etc). Just do a Google search for phrases like "do the public approve", or "what do the public think" to see lots more examples. – ShreevatsaR Jan 17 '14 at 10:32
@ShreevatsaR - Inclusive English uses "does..." more than twice as often as "do...", and the use of the plural is continuing to fall. – medica Jan 17 '14 at 10:50
@Susan: What is "Inclusive English"? Of course American publications are more numerous than British, so unless you've filtered that out in your ngram statistics, the results are irrelevant to the issue at hand (on top of all the usual issues with ngram statistics). – ShreevatsaR Jan 17 '14 at 10:52
@Susan: Fair enough. I agree as you have pointed out that there are two issues in "do the media": one, whether each medium is being considered separately (as in "do the different media have different effects on their readers/listeners/viewers?"), and two, whether we use "formal agreement" (as always in AmE) or "notional agreement" (as often in BrE). So the answer to the question is probably that the latter is being used. Indeed, searching online for "do the media exploit" throws up mostly BrE sources. However, it is also possible (as I guess you think) that it may be confusion with the former. – ShreevatsaR Jan 17 '14 at 11:17

Like other collective nouns, it may take a singular or plural verb depending on the intended meaning. If the point is to emphasize the multifaceted nature of the press, a plural verb may be more appropriate:

The media have covered the trial in a variety of formats.

Frequently, however, media stands as a singular noun for the aggregate of journalists and broadcasters:

The media has not shown much interest in covering the trial.

(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009.)

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