September 24, 2018

Real-time polling; more Kavanaugh accusers; welcome to The Markup

When The New York Times began publishing poll results as they were taken, it may have seemed surprising to readers accustomed to the considered “get it right before getting it first” approach of the Gray Lady.

I asked the NYT’s Amanda Cox, of The Upshot, how the live surveys from state voter lists began. We also talked about surprises (new subscribers!) in this brief Q & A:

Q.  Was it difficult to sell a transparent, iterative, watch-us-work-in-real-time aspect to an organization that traditionally has blossomed with a completist, almost perfectionistic approach?

A. The core values of this project are really core New York Times values: honesty, clarity about what we know and how we know it, listening to as many people as possible.

Q. What sort of range of reactions has it gotten from readers? Candidates? Other pollsters? It seems like it's teaching the nuts and bolts of polling, the statistical safeguards/restraints.

A. Some readers are hooked. Here’s a set who have said they have subscribed or are thinking about it because of the project (Note that we have not confirmed these tweets, or spoken individually to these people). Some pollsters are firmly in the “never look at partials” camp, which is the word that’s used for a poll that’s partially complete. But we think there are really important lessons about complete polls in the partial results — sampling error doesn’t go away when a poll is finished. Many readers appear to be learning these lessons in a way that they haven’t from written articles, or complete results. Other pollsters are excited about the amount of data the project is generating.

Q. How long will it go on?

A. If everything goes as expected, we’ll continue polling into early November.

Q. What lessons have you learned for future projects? (The limitations of phone polling?) Or what, if any, mid-stream changes did you make?

A.Nate (Cohn) wrote an article about some of the more technical things we’ve learned today. (Eds. note: They included issues like lack of party identification on some state voter lists, the subset of voters with phone numbers on the voting lists and an effort to correct for sample imbalances.)

Q. Lastly, how could an news organization with a fraction of your budget do a version of this?

A.I thought this recent project where Texas newsrooms pooled their resources to buy their state’s voter file was really cool. We’ve seen some of that type of collaboration with polling this cycle too.

Quick hits

THAT ROSENSTEIN SCOOP: The NYT's Michael Schmidt says his reporting indicates Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was not being sarcastic when he suggested wearing a wire with President Trump or pursuing the 25th amendment. From an interview with Slate's Isaac Chotiner.

NEW KAVANAUGH ALLEGATION: Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer report that Senate Democrats are investigating another accusation of sexual misconduct from Brett Kavanaugh's freshman year at Yale. … Over the weekend, a GOP staffer for the Senate Judiciary Committee quit after allegations he was involved in sexual harassment, and a Kavanaugh pal who started a malicious rumor about Christine Blasey Ford has been placed on leave from his job at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Michael Avenatti says he is representing a third woman who is accusing Kavanaugh of improprieties.

GONE: A pro-Trump CNN commentator and former Trump communications official, after allegations he dosed a pregnant girlfriend with an abortion pill that almost killed her. CNN was already down a pro-Trump commentator after another was found to have been fired from a previous job after reports of inappropriate behavior.

WELCOME TO THE MARKUP: Now we know why Julia Angwin left ProPublica. She will be editor-in-chief and former Wikimedia head Sue Gardner will be executive director of The Markup, a nonprofit New York-based news organization investigating the societal harms of technology. The project's initial funding, listed in its announcement Sunday night, is impressive: $20 million from Craig Newmark, $2 million from the Knight Foundation and additional support from the Ford and MacArthur foundations. Said Newmark, who will be speaking today to The National Press Club Headliner Luncheon: "By producing data-driven, rigorously fact-checked reporting on the effects of technology on society, The Markup is helping to fill a largely unmet need." The Markup's managing editor will be Jeff Larson, also formerly of ProPublica. Here's more from the NYT

EDITING, AFTER #METOO: Ian Buruma was entitled to seeking debate, but in publishing “a hot mess” and in defending him, the former editor showed he was out of touch. Writes Meghan O’Rourke for The Atlantic: “He brought us back to the old model in which the man’s side of the story is accorded a kind of respect that the woman’s isn’t.”

MORE THAN HALF: For the first time, digital advertising is projected to be a majority of the overall U.S. ad spend, according to Magna’s Fall 2018 U.S. Advertising Forecast.

MIC FOR SALE?: The digital site Mic is considering an acquisition offer as financial pressures grow, the WSJ’s Ben Mullin reports.

HIRED: Kirsten Danis, managing editor of The Marshall Project since 2015, as the NYT’s deputy Metro editor for investigations. … Chip Cutter, managing editor of LinkedIn's editorial division, is moving to cover work and management issues for The Wall Street Journal.

FIRST PERSON: She wrote an op-ed that asked how women should respond to violence and inequity. "I received hundreds of emails and tweets describing, in horrifying detail, how I should be raped and murdered or should die from a variety of incurable diseases," said Suzanna Danuta Walters, director of  Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University.

THE READ: Why ‘The Resistance’ is a misnomer, writes Michelle Alexander. It is President Trump who is resisting the new America that is struggling to be born, says the author of "The New Jim Crow." The reactive idea of resistance, she writes, “can also tempt us to set our sights too low and to restrict our field of vision.”


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