Nate Silver

Here’s the storyline behind The Washington Post’s Storyline

When Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron congratulated the team of writers and editors behind Storyline after its launch Tuesday morning, he was addressing journalists who’d been spending a lot of time at work.

Some members of the team were in the office until 9 p.m. Monday night making final preparations. Jim Tankersley, the site’s editor, got in the office at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“It’s fair to say that we worked many a night and weekend to get this where it is,” Tankersley said.

The site, which aims to answer big questions about public policy, bears some similarities to initiatives like FiveThirtyEight, The Upshot, QED and Vox, which was founded by Post alumnus Ezra Klein. This morning, Michael Calderone wrote in The Huffington Post wrote that the site was another salvo in the continuing “wonk wars.”

But what distinguishes Storyline from these other explanatory sites, Tankersley said, is its ambition to put public policy questions into context with powerful personal stories. This narrative approach is an effective way to process complicated information, just like graphs or charts are.

“We think that’s one of the things that makes us different from other homes on the Web,” Tankersley said.

The site plans to use these narratives to answer broad questions, which the team has dubbed storylines, about a wide variety of topics related to public policy. The team, which consists of Tankersley, four reporters, a video journalist, a data visualization specialist and assistant business editor Ryan McCarthy, is currently considering about a dozen such questions, which touch on the economic recovery, the changing climate and the immigration debate.

Tankersly has a background in this kind of journalism — the Post hired him from National Journal in 2012 to write big-picture stories about the economy, and he has a series of policy stories forthcoming in print and online, he said. In a post that accompanied the launch of Storyline, Tankersley wrote that the project was inspired by a series of stories that ran in The Oregonian in 1997, which explained the Asian financial crisis by following a shipment of spuds from the Western United States to a McDonalds in Singapore. Along the way, the potatoes came into contact with people who were affected by the financial panic, explaining the news “in a way no textbook or straight news piece could.”

The idea for Storyline began to coalesce in October out of conversations Tankersley had with Post reporter Eli Saslow. Tankersley submitted the pitch in December, before Klein left the Post, and got the greenlight in January. Klein was an early adviser to the site; he and Tankersley had coffee to discuss the concept, after which the Storyline editor remembers “coming back with a bunch of notes on the proposal.”

One benefit to watching these other sites launch is the ability to assess what made them successful, Tankersley said. For example, McCarthy, a Washington Post assistant business editor, noticed that the most successful policy sites had plenty of content before they went live, Tankersley said. Because of this, he urged Storyline’s team to have a week’s worth of content before they launched the site, a demand they met.

The content on Storyline is arranged in a way that stops just short of being an infinite scroll — a design that has gained traction in recent months with big names in news like Time Magazine and The Los Angeles Times. McCarthy, who worked on a similar content delivery system at Reuters, said the site’s design is an attempt at allowing readers to seamlessly access related content that interests them while allowing the Post to segment content by topic.

“We’re trying to take the idea of a continuous stream of news and break it into more than one section,” McCarthy said. Read more


Nate Silver: Pulitzer-winning newspapers aren’t immune to circulation losses


A newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize count has very little effect on its circulation losses, Nate Silver found after a spin through some data:

Does that mean that newspapers might as well forget about quality as an economic strategy? That’s not what this data says. There is a relationship between Pulitzer Prizes and circulation (the correlation is .53 among the 50 newspapers listed here). It’s just that this relationship hasn’t changed much from 10 years ago. The vast majority of newspapers have seen their circulations decline; the ones that win a lot of Pulitzers have suffered about as much as the ones that don’t. You could spin this result as a negative for high-quality journalism — newspapers that win Pulitzers are doing no better at retaining their readers — or as a positive — almost all newspapers are struggling, but the ones that win Pulitzers continue to have more readers.

Silver looked at daily circulation figures, which led to some strangeness: The Times-Picayune dropped 100 percent by his count, for example, because it no longer publishes daily.

Increasingly, though, it’s nearly impossible to wrest any meaning from the circulation figures publishers report to the Alliance for Audited Media. The data are, as Silver might say, very, very noisy.

Some papers count average daily circulation as Monday through Friday. Some do Monday through Saturday. Others, like the Times-Picayune, break out circulation data by individual day. At any rate, Sunday is “by far the most valuable audience for advertisers,” Rick Edmonds wrote in 2012.

Here’s what I wrote last October about circulation in Louisiana in September 2013: Read more


What it takes to create a new kind of journalism

During the night, I tossed and turned over this question: What does it take to create something new in journalism and make it stick? The question was inspired by a Jay Rosen post tracking the progress of Nate Silver’s new ESPN venture called “FiveThirtyEight” (the number of votes in the Electoral College). I glanced at the alarm clock. It said – I am not making this up, Dave Barry – 5:38. It was a sign.

So if Silver’s efforts represent a body of work – data journalism – what exactly is it? Where does it fit in the history of other analogous journalism inventions? At first glance, data journalism is bigger than a genre, more transcendent than a beat. The word “form” feels too squishy, so allow me to call it a mode. Maybe it would help to list other modes of journalism, in rough chronological order:

  • Wire service reporting
  • Investigative reporting
  • Human interest reporting
  • The New Journalism (leading to narrative journalism and immersive reporting)
  • Television news magazines
  • Computer-assisted reporting
  • USA Today (and its influence on color, graphics, and concise writing)
  • Explanatory journalism
  • Public journalism
  • Online journalism
  • Multimedia journalism
  • Data journalism

These categories are big, imprecise, and over-lapping. But, like pornography, I know an example when I see it. The list leads me to some generalizations about news gathering and reporting:

  • Modes of journalism are not eternal. They are invented in time for a purpose, influenced by demography, markets, and technologies.
  • Some modes of journalism become tired, even exhausted, no longer able to meet the needs of the day.
  • Even when exhausted, modes never disappear. They can be dismissed only to return to service.
  • All modes on that list exist in 2014, even as they compete with new forms (such as social networks) in an era of tumultuous change.

Some modes are stronger, some are weaker. Some retain their shape, others are shape shifters. The question I keep asking: What does it take to join a Club Mode? What does it take to create a new mode of journalism, and not just create it, but make it stick? By “make it stick” I mean: make it grow, create a demand for it, see it more often, or multiply its practitioners.

I am going to suggest six criteria for a mode’s innovation and stick-ability.

1.  A manifesto
2.  An anthology
3.  Infrastructure to replicate
4.  A congenial technology
5.  An audience or market
6.  An organization

I’ll briefly describe each one and draw some implications.

Manifesto:  Sometimes a manifesto comes early in the movement, sometimes much later. Sometimes it is written not by practitioners, but by scholars or critics. The public journalism movement was manifesto heavy, with statements of mission and purpose coming from scholars such as Jay Rosen and editors such as Buzz Merritt and Cole Campbell. This made the movement effective and controversial at the same time. No one was trying to sneak stuff in the newspaper.

One job of a manifesto is to call attention to the inadequacies of the existing modes of journalism. Such criticisms of the status quo are almost always over-stated. They are almost never diplomatic or judicious enough to incorporate rank-and-file practitioners and their existing routines.

One manifesto came from Tom Wolfe during the development of the New Journalism in the 1960s. He wrote and spoke publicly about the need for forms of non-fiction that relied on the narrative strategies of fiction: character details, scenes, dialogue, point of view, etc. Wolfe not only described what a new journalism could be, he offered the tools on how to create it. But the New Journalism was not just about technique. It was about the need for a journalism that paid attention to things that the mainstream ignored, like rock music.

Anthology: In Wolfe’s case, his manifesto became the introduction to an actual anthology of stories designed to showcase New Journalism. Such collections of expert work are essential to building the pillars for a new architecture. Anthologies need not come in book form. These days, there are many ways to examine the products of excellent work, such as the narrative story website Contests also help to focus attention on the best examples, though it always helps to add some expert commentary or make it the basis of some training.

W.H. Auden said that a poem is a “contraption” with a person hiding inside. But so is journalism. If you are trying to build something different – a Gothic cathedral that can support huge stained glass windows – it is important for a new generation of practitioners to study what you have built, understand the parts of the process, develop names for those parts, and give it a try.

Replication: If I can examine what you have done, maybe I can replicate it. In 1996, I experimented with a form of serial narrative with short chapters. I found some rough examples from fiction and nonfiction to guide me. But when I was finished with “Three Little Words,” other narrative writers could see my blueprint and figure out if it suited their needs.

One concern posed by examples of multimedia reporting and writing – such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Snowfall” – is whether or not it can be replicated, especially in shops smaller than The New York Times. We have many examples of good multimedia reporting, but the best ones seem to be labor intensive, well beyond the resources of most news organizations. So if multimedia journalism is a mode, I think it has important work to do on all three fronts mentioned so far: the manifesto, the anthology, and the infrastructure to replicate.

Technology:  I am persuaded by Jay Rosen’s argument that what the public journalism movement lacked in the 1990s was a congenial technology that could compete with the traditional newspaper and make the collection and distribution of news more democratic. That technology now exists. It’s called the Internet. USA Today took advantage of technologies that made the creation of color informational graphics much easier. By definition, computer-assisted reporting was built upon a technology that could count things quickly. A compliant technology is the key advantage of multimedia reporting: the ability to mix video, sound, text, still images, and much more, in an effort to enhance a report or story in the public interest.

Audience:  Audience and market are not married, but they sleep together. We think of the human interest story as a standard of journalism, yet it was very much a creation of the Penny Press, serving an expanding audience at the turn of the 20th century in America’s cities. In an important book written in 1940, “News and the Human Interest Story,”  Helen MacGill Hughes (in a manifesto, of sorts, written after the fact), describes how traditionalists saw human interest as a betrayal of standards. In their view, journalism should concern itself with the workings of government and commerce.

In an effort to attract more women to coverage of the Olympics, NBC has developed a style of human interest reporting and writing that focuses less on the results, and more on the lives of the athletes. Human interest lives on as a journalistic mode.

In the 1990s, it was never clear that public journalism had an audience that could be converted into a market, a problem that had it stalled for a while. USA Today imagined its market as busy travelers – as the NY tabloids imagines its market as strap-hangers on the subway – with short lively forms created in service to those constituencies.

Organization: A sign that a mode has become a part of the news media landscape is when its proponents gather together, sometimes forming a club to celebrate and expand their mutual interests. This has been the hallmark of Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Online News Association, and the Boston University and Mayborn narrative conferences. I’m not sure what the members of all these would talk about if they found themselves in the same ballroom, but it is easy to see how each one champions a certain mode of journalism.

I will now confess a bias: I’ve never met a mode of journalism I didn’t like or couldn’t appreciate. Give me more, more, more. I’m doing my best to follow the work of Nate Silver and his editor, my friend Mike Wilson. I want FiveThirtyEight to do well, to teach this English major more about Bayesian analysis, and to enlighten me with more conceptual scoops based on the numbers. I also want their stories to be well-written (call me!), and to be grounded in a strong sense of mission and purpose.

If this is an important new mode, what will help it spread? Let’s return to my categories:

Nate Silver and his team are strong in the area of manifestos. Not only has he written a book about his work, but he continues to explain and revise. He reaches out to join others in conversation. He has made the classic mistake, I believe, in his dismissal of certain kind of opinion journalists, who lack, by Silver’s standards, a hard evidentiary basis for their beliefs. Most people in the public sphere understand that argument often precedes evidence – in fact leads to it. Silver’s antagonisms may set him apart in the short run, but, long term, they will alienate some who may want to wish him well.

Silver’s site is one way to build an anthology, as are the kinds of books written on economics by Michael Lewis. But Silver seems stuck right now between, to use his baseball analogy, clean singles and home runs. Anthologies need both. But they especially need work that feels different  – and that makes a difference. I see this as a work in progress.

The value of those singles is a kind of modesty, a suggestion that they can be replicated. Larger pieces – like investigations – require weeks or even months of human and technical labor. As more news organizations hire computer scientists and data visualization experts (if they can afford them!), we will discover what is possible on the local level. Will Big Data give birth to Little Data? There was a time, not long ago, when news organizations began to hire page designers. Few had a background in journalism. But over time, skills and values came together on behalf of the reader.

The problem for Silverites is not the availability of a compliant technology, but making sure that powerful technologies do not unduly dominate the process. The technology may compile data at breathless speed, but how that knowledge is selected and then conveyed to readers will still depend on editors, writers, and visual artists.

I am now part of the audience for FiveThirtyEight, and maybe the market – if they sell T-shirts. If there is anyone who should be able to keep track of these numbers and help us understand what they mean, and whether Silver turns to Gold, it will be Mr. Nate.

At Poynter not long ago, we had an informative conference on understanding audience.  There were cool people there who understood computer science, statistics, algorithms, and programming. And who could talk about mission and purpose, narrative in all its forms, and the future of journalism and democracy, here and around the world. If those folks want to start an organization, better yet a club, I’m ready to join. Read more

Isolated diversity tree with pixelated people illustration. Vector file layered for easy manipulation and custom coloring. Depositphotos

Why journalism startups should look past traditional talent pools

The launch of Nate Silver’s new, ESPN-funded version of FiveThirtyEight is here, with its data-centric approach to journalism that could reinvent news for the digital age — or at least make it better. And while Silver’s brand of journalism may look different, the people producing it look at lot like the people producing “conventional” journalism: white men.

FiveThirtyEight isn’t the only exciting new journalism site with a predominantly white male staff. As Emily Bell pointed out in the Guardian, we’ve also got Vox and First Look Media, among several others.

“It’s impossible not to notice that in the Bitcoin rush to revolutionize journalism, the protagonists are almost exclusively – and increasingly – male and white,” Bell wrote.

Recent studies have shown that the percentages of minorities and women in newsrooms are significantly lower than in the general population and, alarmingly, that those numbers have remained largely unchanged over the last decade. An upward trend would suggest that things are on their way to getting better. Instead, it seems that most newsrooms are happy to keep things as they are, which isn’t nearly good enough.

Glenn Greenwald: “Ideally we would’ve launched, in a perfect world, in like May or June and been vastly more diverse. But we will be, and shortly.” (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

That’s why it’s so disappointing to see that trend might be continuing at these new sites. They have a chance to build everything from the ground up, free of the history of discrimination at legacy outlets where social minorities — women as well as other minority groups — have had to sue to get the same jobs as their white male co-workers. The Internet is a place where anyone has a chance to make his or her voice heard. So why are these digitally focused news sites hiring the same voices that dominated the kind of journalism they’re meant to replace?

Glenn Greenwald, who founded First Look’s first magazine, The Intercept, with Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, says diversity is very important to him, and we’ll see much more of it as the Pierre Omidyar-funded digital magazine continues to fill out its staff.

“When Laura, Jeremy and I first decided that we were going to form this organization – even before we talked to Pierre and once we did – we put as literally one of top goals that we were going to be more diverse than every other media organization of similar size and stature,” Greenwald says.

The first wave of hires didn’t reflect this desire, Greenwald acknowledges. The Intercept ended up launching a few months earlier than originally intended – Greenwald and company wanted to get more reporting on those NSA documents out there – before it was fully staffed, and the staff it did have happened to be mostly white men.

“I was so disappointed, and I think – I know that Laura and Jeremy were, too — that at launch we just did not have the diversity that we intended to have and that we will have, because I felt like that was a really important opportunity to send the opposite message,” Greenwald says. “Ideally we would’ve launched, in a perfect world, in like May or June and been vastly more diverse. But we will be, and shortly.”

A few days after we spoke, The Intercept announced three new hires. Two are people of color and one is a woman. That may not seem like much, but The Intercept’s newsroom is still quite small, so any new staffer changes its ratios significantly. (On Wednesday, The Intercept hired another woman, Jordan Smith, to cover criminal justice.)

As for Vox, Ezra Klein said he was too busy building the new site to comment, but he did discuss it a bit in a Facebook message to Maynard Institute columnist Richard Prince, as described by Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. Klein said there was diversity in Vox’s newsroom “but certainly not enough” and asked for suggestions on “the top few young candidates of color we should be talking to.” (Apparently Klein is not interested in talking to old candidates of color, which … isn’t great.)

Ezra Klein: Said there’s “certainly not enough” diversity at his yet-to-launch publication at this point. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Klein also spoke with the American Prospect‘s Gabriel Arana about the recent controversial hire of Brandon Ambrosino, who is gay, as a writing fellow, saying that he was “struggling to find racial minorities” for his staff but also prized “ideological diversity” as well as racial diversity. Co-founder Melissa Bell weighed in to point out that she has been referred to as Klein’s “hire,” thus minimizing her role in the new company. It’s a fair point, but Klein is the person whose name made all the headlines when the venture was first announced, Klein is the person who regularly appears on MSNBC and Klein is the brand Vox is being built around.

As for FiveThirtyEight, a spokeswoman for ESPN says: “as we’ve hired staff for FiveThirtyEight we’ve sought to assemble varied viewpoints and continue to make diversity a priority as we move forward.” And it’s worth pointing out that FiveThirtyEight and Grantland, another ESPN boutique journalism site run by a white man, are now under the umbrella of “Exit 31,” which will be led by Marie Donoghue, a woman. But Silver, too, seems to be struggling to find diverse hires. He told New York Magazine that 85 percent of FiveThirtyEight’s applications come from men.

Nate Silver: Gets lots of applications from men. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Could it be that there just aren’t that many people of color or women who work in those particular fields, so the diverse staff isn’t there for Silver or Klein to hire? (Foreign Policy recently published a chart that showed how skewed certain subject areas are toward male bylines.)

“I think there are enough journalists of color who would be suitable candidates for such sites,” Prince emailed me. And the National Association of Black Journalists has also written a guide for employers looking to build a diverse staff. Its title: “Never Say ‘We Can’t Find Talented Journalists of Color’ Again.”

BuzzFeed deputy editor-in-chief Shani Hilton wrote an essay recently that touches on another dimension to this issue: “The network — on both ends of the equation — is the problem,” Hilton wrote. She continues:

The journos of color and women aren’t networking with white dudes doing the hiring because it isn’t in their DNA. Call it the Twice as Hard Half as Good Paradox: Many of us are so busy working twice as hard and hoping to get noticed that we don’t do the networking that seems like bullshit but is actually a key part of career advancement.

“The reality is with small efforts you can put together a top-notch staff that’s diverse,” Greenwald says. “If all you’re going to do is say, ‘I’m looking at the New York Times and the Washington Post and AP and the Wall Street Journal and NBC,’ you’re going to end up thinking, oh my god, there’s a dearth of good women national security reporters because all those places are predominantly male.”

Greenwald’s solution is to look elsewhere (his recent hires have written for sites like Alternet, Salon and Al Jazeera, for example) though it’s a harder and slower process to reach out to new places and people than it is to, say, grab a bunch of people from your last job. Hiring the same talent from the same pool will only perpetuate the lack of diversity.

“You need to diversify the places where you look and then you’ll automatically be diversifying who you’re finding,” Greenwald says.

First Look Media’s executive editor Eric Bates also spoke to me about the diversity in the company, which plans to launch several more digital magazines in the future. Bates says that while the outlet’s first high-profile hires have been nearly all white men, that will soon change.

“People are seeing the first 15 hires and thinking that’s representative, and it’s not,” Bates says.  Bates, Andy Carvin, Bill Gannon, Michael Rosen and Jay Rosen are white men, but Lynn Oberlander recently joined as general counsel, and Lynn Dombek will serve as First Look’s research director.

“Startups have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to diversity,” Bates says. “There are opportunities and challenges. The opportunity is, you’re starting fresh, you don’t have the legacy structure or staff to deal with. And that’s really great. The challenge is, there’s a whole lot of ambiguity at the start.”

That’s why, Bates says, First Look Media’s progress has been slow – he and his team are trying to get as much input from a diversity of sources as possible, rather than relying on their own networks. Bates is particularly keen to hire women and people of color for leadership positions, an area that tends to be even less diverse than the newsroom.

“If you really want to take the time and make sure that you’re looking at the entire landscape, then you slow down and you try to get it right,” Bates says.

Finally, there’s Re/Code, the new site from Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. The site, which grew out of All Things D, has an almost even ratio of men and women on staff and several journalists of color, despite its relatively small size and the fact that the majority of tech writers (and the people they write about) are white men.

Kara Swisher’s Re/Code has has an almost even ratio of men and women on staff. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

“Walt and I try very hard to think about that when we are doing hiring at any level,” Swisher told me in an email.

Mossberg followed that up by pointing out that Kenneth Li, who is Asian-American, is the site’s managing editor and the highest-ranking editorial employee after Swisher and Mossberg.

“Of course,” Mossberg wrote, “we are always on the lookout for more diversity.”

Mossberg’s point is an important one. Diversity should come from the top down, and that’s an area that is seriously lacking in female and minority voices. Case in point: The Marshall Project, which could be the next exciting journalism startup. It will cover criminal justice and says it plans to “recruit a diverse staff.” But its first hire and editor in chief is a white man.

These new sites have a real chance to change journalism — both the way it’s written and the people who write it. There won’t and can’t be one without the other. It’s great that the people these sites are often built around are saying that diversity is important to them, but it’s unfortunate that the vast majority of those people are white men. That needs to change as well as the diversity of the newsrooms they run. Read more


FiveThirtyEight and the rise of the lengthy personal-brand manifesto

Along with the rise of the personal brand has come the rise of the personal website manifesto.

The form has various purposes: to sell readers on the business model (Andrew Sullivan); to rail against punditry (Nate Silver); to set a high bar and a high price (Jessica Lessin); to test newfound F-bomb freedom (Bill Simmons); and to let people know things mostly will be business as usual (Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg). Read more


FiveThirtyEight launches, promises to break news ‘rarely’


The new FiveThirtyEight launched Monday under ESPN’s auspices. In an article welcoming readers, Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver says the fact that he called the 2012 presidential election “was and remains a tremendously overrated accomplishment.” It only stood out “in comparison to others in the mainstream media,” Silver writes.

Silver: Will attempt to generalize (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

But prediction won’t be FiveThirtyEight’s raison d’être, Silver writes. He’s far more concerned with generalization:

No matter how well you understand a discrete event, it can be difficult to tell how much of it was unique to the circumstances, and how many of its lessons are generalizable into principles. But data journalism at least has some coherent methods of generalization.

That approach “takes time,” he writes. “That’s why we’ve elected to sacrifice something else as opposed to accuracy or accessibility. The sacrifice is speed — we’re rarely going to be the first organization to break news or to comment on a story.” Read more

1 Comment

James Wolcott writes about “Name-Brand” journalists like Ezra Klein and Nate Silver:

In some college communication and writing courses, playing social media like a harp is considered as integral to future success as teaching your paragraphs how to roll over and fetch. I’m just glad I came along when the writing game was mostly a matter of fighting your way up Pork Chop Hill with long naps in the foxhole and didn’t require daily, hourly upkeep and depend upon the kindness of mouse clicks. Raising a brand from infancy, nurturing it, tending to it as it teeters around the track, sprucing it up when it gets stale—it sounds exhausting, like being a stage mother, a helicopter parent to your own career.

James Wolcott, Vanity Fair


NYT’s Leonhardt: The Upshot staff will ‘serve as navigators for the news’

Facebook | Mashable | The Guardian

David Leonhardt explains his vision for his upcoming “startup” publication at The New York Times, which will be called The Upshot.

Imagine that you were sitting down with a journalist and could ask any question about the news.

Which parts of Obamacare are working, and which parts are not? Is Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, really in danger of losing his seat this year? Is it better to buy a home or rent one in your metro area right now?

“Our biggest goal is to serve as navigators for the news,” Leonhardt writes. “We’ll be conversational without being dumbed down.”

This urge to explain also drives another forthcoming startup, the Ezra Klein-edited Vox, whose tagline is “Understand the news.” Nate Silver’s soon-to-be relaunched FiveThirtyEight chose a fox for its logo, because of an Isaiah Berlin parable in which a hedgehog “views the world in a simple fashion, with one big defining truth,” Sam Laird reports. “But the fox sees a world of nuance, a world that can be approached from multiple angles and contains multiple truths from multiple perspectives.”

The fox also needs to diversify, Emily Bell wrote Thursday, saying that in the “rush to revolutionize journalism, the protagonists are almost exclusively – and increasingly – male and white.” The fact that these startups reflect legacy journalism’s diversity problem don’t let them off the hook, Bell argues:

Women tend to have to choose in the newsroom, even digital-first newsrooms: serve others, as an editor or commissioner, or be your own presence as a journalist/columnist/blogger. The leadership in the new (new) journalism do both, and their founders would not for one second have thought they had to choose.

Read more

FiveThirtyEight to relaunch March 17

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight will relaunch March 17, ESPN President John Skipper announced Saturday at South by Southwest as he introduced Silver and Grantland’s Bill Simmons for a panel on personal media brands.

While talking about leaving The New York Times and deciding to partner with ESPN, Silver criticized old media brands for being “being slow on their feet and not having entrepreneurial spirit.” They have no concept of return on investment, he said. Read more


In an excerpt from a story about Nate Silver’s planned relaunch of, Jack Dickey writes about Silver’s hiring practices. Silver graphs potential employees:

The bottom two quadrants belong to the dregs of American journalism: on the left, sportswriters who cherry-pick statistics without thinking through them, and on the right, op-ed columnists. “That’s the crap quadrant. Two-thirds of the op-ed columnists at America’s major newspapers are worthless,” Silver says. He hates punditry, he hates narratives, he hates bold proclamations — and so too does he hate the media’s most willing vessels for all three.

Jack Dickey, Time


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