I attended a fantastic conference hosted by BlogHer yesterday. It’s a strange experience, entering a convention hall filled with 98% women. My ears were ringing with an unfamiliar “crowd noise” pitch – instead of the usual rumbling that one expects on entering a ballroom full of people, I noticed the same volume of noise, but a few octaves higher. I suppose it was the sound of estrogen.
The co-founders of BlogHer, Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page, and Jory Des Jardins are a media tour de force. Within a span of 3 years they have built the largest and arguably the most influential group of women bloggers on the Internet. BlogHer drives an astounding 4 billion page views per year and has 16 million unique visitors per year.
The closing panel discussion was riveting. Lesley Stahl described the decline of television journalism, explaining that the line between pundits and journalists had been blurred beyond recognition.
Anyone on television is considered part of ‘mainstream media.’ There is no distinction made between opinion and fact. That’s why the media has lost trust in the eyes of Americans. Pundits don’t necessarily care about accuracy, and so traditional journalists (who spend a good deal of their time fact checking) are lumped in with them. I get tarred too.
Carol Jenkins, President of the Women’s Media Center, explained,
Getting facts checked takes time. It’s incredibly important for the media to act responsibly, because a rumor that you start in good faith can have devastating consequences.
Lesley Stahl predicts that it will take 2 more presidential cycles to sort out the “wild west” Internet information boom. She acknowledged that more information can be better – but false information and rumor mongering can crowd out the valuable content. She believes that Internet users will become more discerning over time, and that the current “anything goes” environment will give way to a more organized hierarchy where journalistic integrity will rise like cream to the top of this community-powered mix.
As I listened to Lesley, I realized that the same “blurring” phenomenon is happening in healthcare. I have been deeply concerned about the misinformation that my patients receive on the Internet, and quite astonished that celebrities like Jenny McCarthy can be more influential in parents’ healthcare decision-making than their own doctors. When it comes to health matters, it is incredibly important for patients to get their information from a trusted source. Getting political facts straight is one thing (and kudos to the journalists who maintain their integrity in the midst of the pundit bonanza), but making life and death decisions is entirely another.
I’ve created a list of online health information sources that I trust. It is not exhaustive, but it’s a start. As you search for health information to care for yourself or your loved one – please remember the cardinal rule of good journalism: consider the source.
Other contacts of note:
Veronica Noone – she lost 70 pounds through Weight Watchers and now teaches others how to follow suit.
Kristen King – geek lab lady extraordinaire and SEO smartie
Line Storgaard-Conley – Safe Kids Worldwide
Andrea Meyers – Andrea’s Recipes (for healthy eating)