The NYT's Awkward Goodbye to Nate Silver

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 22 2013 3:24 PM

An Awkward Goodbye to Nate Silver From the New York Times' Public Editor

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Nate Silver attends the 16th Annual Webby Awards at Hammerstein Ballroom on May 21, 2012 in New York City

Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

ESPN and Nate Silver made their new union official this afternoon. Silver's former colleagues at the New York Times, meanwhile, are left trying to figure out exactly how they let the one-man traffic machine get away. The paper's public editor, Margaret Sullivan, weighed in this afternoon with a rather awkward post suggesting that the Gray Lady's culture may have never been the best fit for ESPN's newest star—a position that doesn't exactly make the Times sound like a newsroom of the future:

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.” His approach was to work against the narrative of politics – the “story” – and that made him always interesting to read. For me, both of these approaches have value and can live together just fine.
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Sullivan, who describes herself as a fan of both Silver as a person and as a journalist, says the newsroom culture likely only played a "relatively small factor" in Silver's decision to leave, but then goes on to say that there were an untold number of Times-men and women who weren't fans of the FiveThirtyEight blogger's work. Read her full post here.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.