Nate Silver has left the NY Times for a high profile spot at ESPN. Today the Times’ Public Editor explains that Silver never really fit into the Times’ culture:
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.”
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
I wish the Times’ Public Editor would give us a little more here. There is no doubt if you’ve heard Silver speak that he leans left, though he’s less obnoxious about it than people like Paul Krugman. So it can’t have been his political outlook that was the problem. Was it his punditry bashing? I could see pundits objecting to this but why would “political journalists” (who are supposed to be strictly objective) have a problem with it?
You get the feeling there is a lot more to this story that we’re not going to get from the NY Times because it would make someone they value look bad. But then, I often get that feeling from the NY Times.