He Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

The Nate Silver saga: Silver leaves the New York Times for ESPN, and the Times’ public editor says, essentially, we didn’t want him anyway:

I don’t think Nate Silver ever really fit into the Times culture and I think he was aware of that….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.” . . . 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.

Kevin Drum is agog at this attitude:

Even for those of us who are pretty cynical about political reporting, this is astonishing. If I were editor of the Times, I’d do whatever it took to find out who those three are, and then fire them instantly. Whoever they are, they shouldn’t be trusted to cover the pig races at a country fair, let alone write about politics for the most influential newspaper in the country.

Paul Waldman sees the disconnect between all parties:

The trouble is, many political reporters have come over the decades to think that “Who’s going to win?” is in fact the question they should be asking; indeed, many of them think it’s the only question they should be asking. So it’s no wonder that when people like Silver come along and turn out to be able to answer it using an entirely different set of tools than those the journalists have spent their careers mastering, some react like petulant children.

The long and the short of it is that if Nate Silver, a guy who relies on facts and data rather than manufactured drama, if he didn’t “fit in” at the Times, that reflects far more poorly on the Times than on Silver.

But maybe the Times can now allocate more resources to important stories like the fact girls college girls like hooking up, or the trials and tribulations of rich kids whose parents buy them whole apartment buildings.

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