NATE SILVER: 'The Culture Stuff Was Not A Big Factor' In Me Leaving The New York Times

Nate Silver

Nate Silver addressed a report today from the New York Times’ public editor that

he didn’t quite fit the “culture” of the publication, saying on a conference call that it didn’t play a big role in him deciding to move to ESPN.”I’m interested in running a website and building a business here. I’m not interested in who I get a beer with,” Silver said on a conference call with reporters that was arranged by ESPN.

“These cultural issues are getting a bit more play than they should.”

On the call, Silver also provided some details about the vision of his site and his role, overall, at ESPN and ABC. But a hot topic was the column from New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan, who wrote that Silver didn’t quite fit the Times’ culture and 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 specialises 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.”

But Silver said that the “culture stuff was not a big factor.”

“We don’t want to dwell too much on our relationships there,” he said.

He said his decision was based on a number of factors — among them, editorial prestige and freedom, as well as “fun” he could have with the site. Numerous times, he mentioned Bill Simmons’ Grantland site as a model for his new project. The site will have a number of focus topics — the familiar politics and sports, as well as possibly weather, education, economics, and more.

“This was a case not where we felt that we had one good option. … This one was a 9.5 or a 9.8 out of 10 when you look at everything,” Silver said of the opportunity at ESPN.

One surprising item from the “long-term” deal: Silver sold the FiveThirtyEight name and web domain to ESPN as part of the deal to have him join the company. That means, likely, that if Silver leaves the company in the future, the FiveThirtyEight name won’t go with him. It’s different than his arrangement with the Times, which had hosted the domain on its site.

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