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We Tried To Become Better Informed Citizens For 5 Days And It Changed Our World

With so many news sources telling us different things, how can we determine what’s really going on in the world???

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We tend to think of news as facts, but what we’ve discovered is that this is not necessarily true. The way news is represented can completely change how we perceive the world, and even how we feel.

News companies weave their own bias into stories so subtly that it's tough to separate this from the content of the article. This was an issue we felt strongly about and felt like we had to explore it further.

So, we used ourselves as guinea pigs for a week and conducted a very (un)scientific experiment to see the effects of news and news bias on us - quantified self for news if you will. One of us only looked at MSNBC while the other looked at multiple sources (MSNBC, ABC News and BBC) and tracked our emotions, mood and top news for the day.

Curious to try it out for yourself? Read on for the rules and some handy tips. Post your updates on social media using the hashtag #TheTruthAboutNews

But first, a little helloooo from us!

We’re MacKenzie & Manya:

Like many young voters, we found ourselves completely overwhelmed by the news. We wanted to analyze the news in order to better understand what it was saying. But with different outlets often portraying the same news from different points of view, it’s sometimes hard to know what is accurate. Enter our social experiment.

These Were Our Rules

# MacKenzie will only look at MSNBC (that's right, no Facebook for her) as her go-to news site, while Manya will get her daily dose of news from multiple sources (BBC, ABC News and MSNBC).

# Both of us will check the news twice a day (9am and 9pm) — nothing more, nothing less.

# At the end of each session, we will write down one word to describe our emotions, rate our mood from a scale of 1 to 5 (1=very negative, 5=very positive) and the piece of news we perceive to be most important.

MacKenzie: MSNBC kept a lot of the same stories throughout the day, not reporting on much other than the upcoming election. The photos of Hillary Clinton seemed more powerful than those of Trump, the headlines also indicated a slight bias towards more liberal views.

Manya: Each site had a different take on what the top news was, but ultimately, articles about the NYC bombings and protest in Charlotte took center stage.

MacKenzie: I explored a little more today, past all of the political sections, I was able to sneak some world news via the “Educational” section. While MSNBC had sections that appear to be unrelated to politics, however the interior pages were often littered with political stories.

Manya: On MSNBC and ABC News, the Charlotte shooting seemed to be the only important piece of news. BBC’s featured news section, however, allowed me to see other things happening in the world ; helping to balance things out and maintain a broader perspective.

MacKenzie: Nearly half of the “Top Ten” stories on MSNBC were about the protests surrounding the killing of another unarmed black man in North Carolina.

Manya: With the elections only a few days away, it seems to be the main focus. There was still a fair amount of coverage of the protests in Charlotte, but it doesn't seem to be the main story anymore.

MacKenzie: There was a bit of panic today, the original headline relating to the Macy’s shooting in Washington State read “At least 4 dead in Washington mall shooting.” I had automatically thought of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. close to where my sister lives. Later in the day there was a large portion of stories covering the protests in Charlotte. The police released the video of Scott being shot, I did not watch this for personal reasons. As I scrolled down, the last story was about Hillary Clinton canceling her plans to go to Charlotte. I was intrigued by this and because of the past four days, I began to wonder if this would impact her campaign.

Manya: Just when I thought we were slowly recovering from the Charlotte shooting, we hear there’s been another one. It was breaking news on all three news outlets. I was completely shocked. It’s a perfect example of the fact that news never sleeps.

MacKenzie: As the debate is coming up tomorrow, Monday 9.26, most of the articles recently have been about the debate. I’m interested to see what tomorrow will be like as these two go head to head, I’m hoping there is a lot of on-site fact checking.

Manya: It’s interesting to see how big stories compare across news sites. MSNBC had a lot of dramatic headlines clearly communicating that there was a lot at stake with the debate, while BBC was more grounded in their reporting.

So, now what?

* With the elections around the corner, we're inundated with articles, tweets, interviews, and more covering every moment of the race for presidency, there has never been a better time (and necessity) to sit up and listen closely to what is really being said.

* The tips above are essentially things we wished someone had told us. We're sharing these tips in hope that they will help you navigate the the news landscape, helping you cut through the dramatization and new bias to get to the core story and form your own opinions.

* We used MSNBC, ABC News and BBC as we thought they were a good sample of the range of news sources, but you can try this with any news outlets.

* Finally, be sure to try out the tips for yourself and share your thoughts with us! We promise that news will never look the same again. #TheTruthAboutNews

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