BRUNSWICK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A group of students and faculty at Bowdoin College are doing an experiment in April. They want to know how reading news headlines from different perspectives affects the way people view politics and media.
A group of about 70 students and a handful of staff at Bowdoin are engaging in the "Purple Media Plunge." Each day, they agree to read headlines from Fox News, MSNBC and CNN. The hope is that they will click through to the stories and see how different news events are handled, depending on the slant of the news organization.
Tom Ancona, the associate director for the McKeen Center for the Public Good at Bowdoin, said the idea came from a professor in the economics department after journalist Cynthia McFadden spoke at the college. The McKeen Center has been holding a series of lectures and discussions around politics and media, encouraging students to consider issues from the perspectives of others.
Ancona said, "As much as we'd like to think that people are getting their news from The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Wall Street Journal, not everybody is. And a lot of people are just watching Fox News or watching MSNBC, listening to the radio. And I think it's important that people see what individuals are watching and listening to on a daily basis."
Those taking part in the plunge also did a survey at the beginning of the month that asked about their political leanings. A large majority of those surveyed acknowledged they either lean liberal or are very liberal. Students organizing the effort said that liberal bent is reflective of the Bowdoin population. Participants will take another survey at the end of the month to see whether their opinions of politics and media outlets have changed.
Senior Dan O'Berry, who is helping to analyze the survey results, said he sometimes feels like his conservative viewpoint isn't always welcome on campus. He's curious to see whether this kind of media exposure leads to more understanding. "It can be difficult to speak up and make your point and show where you're coming from for fear of being labeled as a bigot, racist what have you, when in fact you're nothing -- not those at all," he said.
Fellow senior, Justin J. Pearson, who describes himself as a "Southern Democrat," agreed. He said he's found himself more critical of media since beginning the plunge. But he hopes it brings people together.
"The opportunity to have students, to have faculty engage with different forms of media than they're usually attuned to watching or reading about is really important to bridging some of the divides that I think have become more present since the election," Pearson said.