Who Do You Believe? National Media, Local Media, Bloggers, or Peer Reviewers?

by Joanna Pineda Posted on June 2, 2009

Online News I just got back from a week in Mexico. Despite the dire warnings from the national media, my family attended a wedding and vacationed in Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya.  Were we nuts to travel to Mexico, home of the dreaded H1N1virus?

If you read The Washington Post, you’ll think we were insane to go. The Post has stories about swine flu pretty much every day.  I count no less than 10 stories that feature or mention swine flu in today’s online edition of the Post.  The Post also tells me that the World Health Organization is set to declare swine flu a global pandemic.

So why did we decide to go?  First of all, what was not widely reported was that the CDC downgraded its travel advisory from a recommendation against non-essential travel to a travel health precaution.  Second, reviews from bloggers in the US and Mexico assured us that Playa del Carmen and the Yucatan Peninsula were safe, having pretty much zero cases of swine flu.  This, despite, the news media reporting that swine flu was all over Mexico.  I found this blog post by Toni and Cheri useful, TripAdvisor (one of my favorite sites for travel and restaurant reviews) had a whole forum devoted to swine flu and Playa del Carmen, and a Google map of swine flu cases around the world showed no confirmed or reported cases close to where we were going.  All of this information, together, reassured me that I would not be putting my family’s health in jeopardy by going on this trip.

What’s fascinating to me is how, once again, I relied on local sites, bloggers and peer reviewers to give me the inside scoop, which seemed to contradict the story I was getting from national, mainstream media. The Pew Research Center would call me an Integrator because I “get the news from both traditional sources and the internet.” However, there is a segment called Net-Newsers “who principally turn to the web for news, and largely eschew traditional sources.”

I’m not about to abandon reading The Post, The New York Times, CNN, etc.  I will, however, continue to blend mainstream news with reviews, blogs and articles by bloggers and peer reviewers.  In some instances, I will probably give more weight to what a mommy blogger has to say about a topic (or product or movie) than the most famous or  award-winning journalist.

How about you?  What sources of news and information do you find most credible?

3 replies on “Who Do You Believe? National Media, Local Media, Bloggers, or Peer Reviewers?”

Interesting observation. I think many people are integrators without even realizing it. This also ties in nicely with the decline in publishing and newspapers in particular, due in part to the rise of new media.

I’m also disturbed by the fact that most media outlets are politically polarized, and it’s difficult to get an objective and honest reporting of all facts/sides of a current event. If you want to get a balanced and complete perspective on an issue, you have to be an integrator! So I find myself watching Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, reading the NYT and WSJ, listening to NPR and talk radio, etc. I think that a lot of folks latch on to a single biased source for news, which fosters an unhealthy “us and them” mentality. If you’ve ever been part of a news story, then you know how easy it is for facts to be misrepresented!

I get most of my news from blogs, but I should note that a fair amount of the content on those blogs comes from mainstream media, predominantly from sites like the Washington Post or the New York Times. I tend to get my stories filtered and even commented on by specific personalities that I trust.

When making decisions about travel, as you talk about in your post, I turn to blogs and comments or reviews on travel sites, or other social media hubs. Searching anecdotes and personal accounts for details on exactly what I’m interested in or wondering about gives me much more specific and, generally, better information than I would glean from more generalized accounts.

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