Nate Silver Didn't Always Fit In At The New York Times, And Some Reporters Will Be Glad To See Him Go

Nate Silver

In analysing Nate Silver’s shock move to ESPN, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan writes that Silver didn’t ever quite fit into the Times’ “culture,” and that he was “aware of that.”

According to Sullivan, a “number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work” because he didn’t fit the mould of a traditional journalist. When she first wrote about Silver’s role at the publication in September 2012, she said that three high-profile political journalists quickly emailed her who were sharply critical of his work. She also said there was “no doubt” that some members of the Times newsroom will be glad to see him depart.

Sullivan writes:

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.”

Silver famously clashed with pundits during the presidential campaign, amid a movement that viewed the polls as “skewed” in favour of President Barack Obama.  

For his part, Silver tweeted upon officially announcing his move that he would miss “a lot of amazing people” in the Times’ newsroom, and that he admired executive editor Jill Abramson:

ESPN is set to hold a conference call with Silver at 3:30 p.m. ET to discuss the move and what FiveThirtyEight will look like moving forward.

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