In the end, for all the usefulness of the web and the input of my fellow consumers, it was an article in the mainstream press that most impressed me in my search for a new car. In November 2006, the Pulitzer Prize-winning car columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Dan Neil, wrote a review of the new model of the Acura MDX. The premise of the review was that Britney Spears was kicking out her husband, Kevin Federline (she had already taken away his Ferrari), and that K-Fed would soon be living out of his car. Neil happily suggested that, in that case, the new mdx would be an excellent choice. He went on to discuss the comfort of the car, the excellence of its sound system (that got my attention), and the technological advances that made it a great-handling SUV. The review was a rave for the car, and also a delight to read. For all the crowd’s current power, experts, thankfully, still have their place.

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Evan Cornog , former associate dean for academic affairs at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism and the former publisher of CJR, is dean of the School of Communication at Hofstra University.