New York Times Editorial Gossips About Statistician Nate Silver’s Departure

Nate Silver

Margaret Sullivan at The New York Times posted an editorial yesterday ruminating on the departure of statistician and FiveThirtyEight blogger Nate Silver, whose predictions for the 2012 election bordered on prescient. The whole thing reads like extended water cooler chat about a colleague one is kinda sorta familiar with, but doesn't actually know really well. Her suspicions for his reasons for leaving for ESPN/ABC include:

I don’t think Nate Silver ever really fit into the Times culture and I think he was aware of that. He was, in a word, disruptive.

His entire probability-based way of looking at politics ran against the kind of political journalism that The Times specializes in.

A number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work. 

The deciding elements more likely were money, a broader variety of platforms and the opportunity to concentrate on sports and entertainment, as well as politics.

Time Magazine has their own editorialized rundown of the story.

Comments

  1. Rrhain says

    Of course he didn’t fit in. Of course his methodology “ran against the kind of journalism that the Times specializes in.”

    He engaged in journalism, not gossip. He engaged in analysis, not random mutterings.

    He was accurate and accountable. That’s everything a political “journalist” despises.

  2. Jeff says

    It was fascinating to read this post, which seemed to paint Sullivan’s blog story as gossipy, critical and perhaps inspired by sour grapes, and then actually read Sullivan’s blog story.

    It was pretty balanced, analytical of why some at the Times may have felt uncomfortable with Silver, and very praiseworthy of him.

    It was valuable to see that Christian Walters can present such a distorted picture of a news item (much like the pundits Silver criticized) – will skip his analysis and go straight to the source in future posts.

  3. Reality Chek says

    As someone who works in “traditional” media, I can attest to the fact that if you are younger, smarter and don’t follow in the footsteps of these so-called “well respected” (translation- old) types, then they will HATE you. Unfortunately journalism is the realm of psuedo-intellectual types who are basically just ordinary people armed with communications degrees.

  4. jjose712 says

    Well, pretty sure a lot of political journalist hate him. During the election i watch a lot of them exposing their predictions based in a lot of ramdom thoughts (everybody remember the good bunch of Rommey will win by a landslide predictions).
    Silver did a great job in the last two elections, his predictions were accurate and his book is a bestseller. I’m pretty sure a lot of people won’t like that

  5. bcarter3 says

    “A number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work.”

    Could that possibly be because a number of traditional and “well-respected” Times journalists are part of that collection of professional gasbags commonly known as “The Village”, which thinks it has a god-given right to define Conventional Wisdom for everybody else?

  6. anon says

    The argument presented above is just guesswork. I see no reason why Silver can’t simply explain his reasons for leaving.

    He did manage to bring a bit of statistical rigor to political election reporting, but you still can’t predict the future, even if your guesses were correct in the past. This is the worst sort of confirmation bias that you can have. If he was disliked it was probably because editorialists have pet theories and don’t like to be proved wrong. However, since memories are short, the public and editors-at-large don’t seem to care if pundit predictions go awry.

  7. Brian in Texas says

    Traditional reporters follow the day to day political horse race. Nate was saying for months before the election that Romney only had a 5 to 10% chance of winning election. Of course they wouldn’t like that.

    ESPN and ABC is a much better fit for him.

  8. DannyEastVillage says

    From an editorial standpoint, the only thing the TIMES is good for is keeping your on the pulse of this week’s orthodoxy. the orthodoxy. In the mid-90s I stopped reading the TIMES because I was so fed up with its rightward drift. In a way the uselessly verbose Tom Friedman is the best example of a TIMES columnist: he has a stranglehold on the obvious that everybody else with eyes and ears was able to predict 24 months earlier.

  9. bravo says

    Wait? His departure was not due to homophobia? He is a breath of fresh air. How dare he comment on the world as it is. He should be more focused on fomenting outrage so that the world can be better. He will be a better fit at ESPN. I’ll miss him at the Times, but ESPN is free.

  10. says

    Silver should be proud that he didn’t fit in with the culture of political “reporting” at the NY Times. it is the newspaper, after all, that was duped by Cheney’s office into printing completely their propaganda about WMDs. I’d be proud not to fit in with those shills.

  11. will says

    Andy: If you lift the “reasons” for Nate leaving the NYT directly from Andrew Sullivan’s blog, it’s only fair to REFERENCE Andrew Sullivan in your blog post. Honestly. It’s scummy not to do so.

  12. Topol says

    Sullivan is hilarious: “His entire probability-based way of looking at politics ran against the kind of political journalism that The Times specializes in.”

    So the journalism The Times specializes in must be baseless speculation.

  13. Topol says

    @Anon: “He did manage to bring a bit of statistical rigor to political election reporting, but you still can’t predict the future, even if your guesses were correct in the past. This is the worst sort of confirmation bias that you can have.”

    Probability is not about predicting the future. In fact, probability is the only kind of bias one should ever have.

    It’s apparent you don’t understand probability and statistics.

  14. Caliban says

    I’m not surprised many political “reporters” didn’t like Silver. Most political reporting is opinion based, more punditry than factual, while Silver is ruthlessly fact-based.

    They spin what they’d LIKE to be true, like “Romney’s numbers surging!”

    And Nate Silver is there to inform them that, NO, he’s looking at the latest poll data and that is not in fact true.

    And that’s true no matter which side is doing the spinning, Left, Right, GOP, Dem. So far as Silver is concerned the NUMBERS tell the story, nothing else, and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for the type of journalistic narratives even big-name “reporters” like to create.

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