In her latest blog post, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan lamented the departure of the paper’s star numbers man, Nate Silver, to ESPN, but also admitted that in many ways he wasn’t a great fit at the Times:
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.
Sullivan noted that while Silver’s FiveThirtyEightblog was very popular with the public, especially among young non-newspaper readers, he wasn’t universally popular in the newsroom, which appeared to be based at least in part on colleagues who were jealous of his rising stardom.
Silver may get the last laugh, however, as he will get plenty of airtime at ESPN and ABC News, and a much bigger audience, to boot.
Maybe he can do an analysis of how much longer newspapers like the Times have before readers abandon print once and for all.