Public editor of The New York Times says Nate Silver has disrupted the paper’s culture


This is, too, too delicious.

As I told you HERE the other day, political numbers-cruncher Nate Silver is leaving The New York Times for a gig at ESPN (and presumably corporate sibling ABC News as well).

One of the things I like about Silver, as I’ve noted on several occasions, is that some political pundits hate him. They don’t appreciate how he uses mathematical analysis to read the political tea leaves while they depend on non-scientific analysis based largely on their schmoozing with supposedly knowledgeable sources.

Silver seems to think most pundits are full of crap. And, of course, he made a lot of them look bad when he correctly predicted the outcome of presidential balloting in each of the 50 states last year while the pundits generally promoted the neck-and-neck meme (if not a Mitt Romney victory) to the very end.

And now with Silver about to head for the door, Margaret Sullivan, public editor of the Times, says THIS of his tenure at the paper:

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. Much like the Brad Pitt character in the movie “Moneyball” disrupted the old model of how to scout baseball players, Nate disrupted the traditional model of how to cover politics.

His entire probability-based way of looking at politics ran against the kind of political journalism that The Times specializes in: polling, the horse race, campaign coverage, analysis based on campaign-trail observation, and opinion writing, or “punditry,” as he put it, famously describing it as “fundamentally useless.” Of course, The Times is equally known for its in-depth and investigative reporting on politics.

His approach was to work against the narrative of politics – the “story” – and that made him always interesting to read. For me, both of these approaches have value and can live together just fine.

A number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work. The first time I wrote about him I suggested that print readers should have the same access to his writing that online readers were getting. I was surprised to quickly hear by e-mail from three high-profile Times political journalists, criticizing him and his work. They were also tough on me for seeming to endorse what he wrote, since I was suggesting that it get more visibility.


Jason Linkins has more about all of this HERE.






  1. Robert

    When you’re good at what you do and you disturb the status quo, you’re going to make enemies regardless if its your intent or not. Jealousy and pettiness abound in corporate environments.

    I’ve always wondered how anything ever got done inside the walls of most large businesses, considering all the backstabbing and one upsmanship that happens in an environment that supposedly everybody is on the same team.

    I don’t miss Corporate America one bit. Go Nate.

  2. Neftali

    This makes zero sense. Why would the Times want to let one of their highest drawing blogs get away? He was the best thing that happened to the Times in decades. Heck, he was the best thing that EVER happened to political polling. Silver’s success is what promoted Gallup to recently drastically re-engineer their polling models.

    I hope he doesn’t go back to do sports forecasting. That seems so beneath him now. There are a hundred different sports stat gurus and blogs out there today. Yet no one in politics appears ready to take over Silver’s mantel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *