In this paper, we present a media-oriented mechanism for selecting the appropriate transmission mode in 802.11-based wireless LANs (WLANs). The main goal of this mechanism is to improve the effective throughput for transporting loss-tolerant multimedia traffic over a WLAN by taking into account both the application characteristics and the physical channel conditions. In particular, the proposed cross-layer mechanism exploits the robustness of multimedia coding by allowing packets with corrupted payloads reach the receiving application. The sending application specifies its quality of service requirements (data rate, BER tolerance, etc.), and the receiver selects the best transmission mode (transmission rate, modulation scheme, FEC scheme) while taking into account the time-varying channel conditions. We discuss the modifications needed for the control and data-packet headers to implement our approach in the framework of the IEEE 802.11 standards. We use ns2 simulations to contrast our scheme with an existing 802.11 rate selection algorithm. The results indicate that the proposed cross-layer approach achieves up to 5 Mbps increase in throughput and 20-meter increase in the coverage range. Furthermore, by disabling FEC from some of the standard transmission modes, we show that the goodput of loss-tolerant applications can be improved significantly.