Behind Nate Silver’s war with The completely new York Times

POLITICO illustration

POLITICO illustration/Getty Images photo


The paper’s onetime data guru can’t stop kicking his ex-employer for its 2020 polling analysis in addition to supposed capitulation to Trump.

Nate Silver made his name as The completely new York Times’ data guru, creating the methodology in which predicted Barack Obama’s reelection.

at This specific point, Silver’s method seems to be to stir up trouble for the Times.

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The 41-year-old editor of the data-driven news site FiveThirtyEight recently called his former employer arrogant, engaged in an extended Twitter debate with his successor (who can be also named Nate), in addition to helped ignite outrage online over the paper’s front-page headline on the president’s response to two mass shootings, a wound in which caused such pain the idea obliged Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger in addition to executive editor Dean Baquet to hold an all-staff meeting This specific week to clear the air.

Silver’s persistent criticism of the Times, stretching back to the last presidential election, has long struck some inside the newsroom as less about methodology in addition to more about personal grievances with the paper in which was unable to meet his demands to expand FiveThirtyEight in addition to at This specific point publishes The Upshot, which features Nate Cohn’s coverage of elections, polling in addition to demographics.

In discussions with POLITICO, Times staffers questioned Silver’s motivation for repeatedly criticizing the paper, though they did not want to comment publicly, declining to pick a fight with Silver in addition to his 3 million-plus Twitter followers. However, frustrations have spilled out publicly at times, with reporters suggesting on Twitter in which Silver’s assessments of the paper’s journalism veered beyond respectful disagreement.

White House reporter Maggie Haberman once derided his “gratuitous jabs at a former employer,” while political in addition to investigative reporter Nick Confessore characterized a tweet criticizing the paper’s 2016 coverage as “a cheap shot masquerading as something else.”

Silver, however, has not been deterred. In recent weeks, he has taken issue with reporter Peter Baker’s analysis of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony as “not the blockbuster Democrats had sought,” by grousing, “Why not just report the news in addition to not reach for a weird like 5th-order conditional/counterfactual narrative.” He also poured some gasoline on the embers of a dispute over Times deputy Washington editor Jonathan Weisman’s racially divisive tweets. in addition to he “sparked a social media furor,” as the Columbia Journalism Review noted, by being the first to call attention to the Times’ at This specific point-infamous headline on President Donald Trump’s response to shootings in El Paso, Texas, in addition to Dayton, Ohio.

“Not sure ‘TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM’ can be how I might have framed the story,” Silver wrote in a tweet in which was seized on by 2020 Democratic presidential candidates in addition to others critical of the headline. Editors changed the headline, which Baquet told staffers Monday was “a fucking mess.”

“I do think a lot of NYTs problems (in addition to to be clear, there are *many* things they do very well along with some *serious* problems) are born out of arrogance; thinking they’re the most important voice inside room,” Silver wrote after the headline blowup. “Nothing engenders in which sort of arrogance like a lack of competition.”

When the idea comes to data analysis, at least, Silver offers competition of his own via FiveThirtyEight, a former Times site at This specific point under the auspices of ABC. This specific summer, a Silver-generated dispute over how the Times analyzes polling data has morphed into the “Battle of the Nates,” as the wonkish Twitter beef has been dubbed. In one recent skirmish, Silver told the younger Cohn in which he hoped he’d “grow out of” a phase of calling things “simultaneously a prediction in addition to not a prediction.”

Cohn in addition to Silver declined requests for interviews. nevertheless in emails to POLITICO, Silver praised Cohn’s work, while dismissing suggestions his criticism of the Times can be motivated by a rivalry or personal grudge.

“Media criticism can be a core part of what I do,” Silver said. “I founded FiveThirtyEight 11 years ago because I had a lot of critiques of how the American press covers elections.

“Given the extremely prominent in addition to influential place in which the Times holds in coverage of American politics, any media critiques are naturally going to invoke the Times frequently,” he continued. “I think they’d do well to take those criticisms to heart instead of constantly accusing their critics of having ulterior motives or acting in bad faith.”

Nonetheless, a completely new York Times spokesperson told POLITICO: “We don’t always agree with Nate nevertheless he sometimes offers smart criticism of our work in addition to we value in which, the idea makes us better.”

The Times’ history with Silver dates to 2010, when the idea took over FiveThirtyEight under a three-year agreement. His posts were a traffic-driver for the Times’ site in addition to — like Cohn — he used polling data to raise provocative questions about elections, such as his November 2011 completely new York Times Magazine cover story asking, “can be Obama Toast?” Obama wasn’t, in addition to Silver went on to correctly call all 50 states ahead of the 2012 election.

As his star rose inside media world, Silver, who was based in completely new York, developed a strained relationship with the Times’ political reporters in Washington. Former Times public editor Margaret Sullivan noted in 2013 how Silver didn’t “actually fit into the Times culture” in addition to Silver has accused the paper’s political reporters of being “incredibly hostile in addition to incredibly unhelpful.”

Silver had fans in Times management, nevertheless the paper couldn’t meet his demands to stay.

“When Nate Silver was negotiating a completely new, richer contract, his lawyer told me in which his client was ‘the prettiest girl at the prom,’” former Times executive editor Jill Abramson wrote in her 2018 book, “Merchants of Truth.” “I told him, perhaps echoing the past, ‘The Times can be always the prettiest girl.’”

Abramson told POLITICO in which Silver sought funding for about 20 “stat mavens in different areas, including sports in addition to weather,” which “might have required a huge investment” through the paper. In July 2013, Silver decamped to ESPN, which bought the FiveThirtyEight site in addition to provided Silver with resources to build a data-driven newsroom. ABC News — which, like ESPN, can be owned by Disney — acquired FiveThirtyEight last year.

The Times rebounded after Silver’s departure by hiring Cohn, another young data wiz, in November 2013 in addition to launching The Upshot all 5 months later.

Both Silver in addition to Cohn came under scrutiny during the 2016 presidential race for underestimating Donald Trump inside Republican primary. On Election Day, The Upshot put Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the Electoral College at 85 percent, while FiveThirtyEight was less bullish than most election types, at 71 percent.

After the 2016 shocker, Silver published an 11-part opus: “The Real Story Of 2016: What reporters — in addition to lots of data geeks, too — missed about the election, in addition to what they’re still getting wrong.” in addition to the Times, Silver wrote, “can be a Great place to look for where coverage went wrong.”

While the Times was Silver’s primary target, he suggested the paper’s political coverage was emblematic of broader problems in 2016, such as journalist groupthink, access-driven reporting, in addition to a misplaced notion of Clinton’s inevitability. inside Trump era, Silver has accused the Times of normalizing neo-Nazism in addition to being beholden to White House access.

On Tuesday, Silver suggested the Times can be “too self-conscious about trying to prove” in which the idea’s not part of the resistance to Trump in which the idea will “likely worsen their journalism” in addition to critics such as the president “will accuse them all of the idea all the same.”

in addition to then there’s the running dispute with Cohn, who wrote on July 19 in which Trump’s “Electoral College edge could grow in 2020.” Despite Trump’s low national polls, Cohn pointed to the importance of a potential “tipping-point state,” such as Wisconsin, where the president’s favorability can be higher than average.

Silver argued in which Cohn’s analysis of Trump’s Electoral College path can be premature based on the polling currently available. “I’m pretty skeptical in which we can say much right at This specific point about whether the idea will be larger, smaller or nonexistent in 2020,” he tweeted.

Cohn acknowledged the map can change before the 2020 election, nevertheless responded: “The piece can be plainly describing the president’s current standing, in addition to goes to unusual lengths to explain in which the idea can change.”

“I think the idea’s kind of BS to lean actually heavily into a particular takeaway in top 80 percent of the article, not to mention the headline/lead/social promotion/etc., in addition to then to introduce the caveats in (literally!!) the 42nd paragraph,” Silver responded. The spat resumed nearly a week later, with Silver accusing Cohn of cherry-picking data to support his hypothesis about an election 16 months away.

Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, who has analyzed the 2020 race using her own election product, told POLITICO in which both Silver in addition to Cohn had legitimate critiques.

nevertheless, she added, there seemed “to be a personal hostility in which was coming through in which was more than about methodology.” She said the idea looked like Silver was criticizing Cohn “for doing the same type of piece in which Nate Silver has written many times.”

In an email to POLITICO, Silver praised Cohn for being “exceptionally Great at what he does” in addition to said in which he doesn’t think “there are actually many philosophical differences” between them. He said “a lot of things in which boil down to what you might call matters of taste,” such as “how certain things are described or when to apply a certain method to a certain problem.

“Practitioners often feel passionately about matters like these,” he added, “nevertheless I don’t know in which they’re terribly newsworthy or important inside grand scheme of things.”

Yet Silver didn’t let the dispute go. Days later, he offered a mocking subtweet in response to completely new polls: “nevertheless I WaS ToLd in which TrUmP LoOkEd StRoNg inside TiPPiNg PoInT StAtEs in addition to carries a BiGgEr eLeCtoRaL CoLLeGe AdVaNtAgE tHaN iN 2o16.”

completely new York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, one of the many journalists following the recurring Twitter spat, responded: “At This specific point, the best advice I can give you, as a fan of both, can be to settle This specific having a straight-out fistfight.”

, new-york-times-1461666, 16 August 2019 | 6:16 am

Source : Behind Nate Silver’s war with The completely new York Times