John’s already mentioned Margaret Sullivan’s take on Nate Silver’s bet, but I wanted to add one thing. When Sullivan was hired to replace the previous, awful, public editor at the Times, and after she wrote a couple of sharp columns, she got a lot of good press. Even though she’s pretty good, she’s still the Gorbachev of that operation–she knows there’s a problem, but she’s still looking at it from the perspective of an insider, so she underestimates how much power her institution has lost.
The first tell is her belief that the Times bestowed some credibility on Nate Silver, who, as she mentions, “has a desk in The Times’s newsroom” and is seen as a “Times journalist”. I think that’s almost exactly backwards. Silver’s made himself credible with quality predictions, and I’m sure many of you were readers of his long before he joined the Times. Moreover, the Times’ Silver hire happened at a time when newspapers were struggling to show that they “got it” when it came to digital, and his hire gave the digital side of their politics coverage instant credibility.
The next piece of glasnost is her view that Silver’s bet with Joe Scar is “inappropriate for a Times journalist” because it might give the impression that he’s a partisan trying to sway the election. Silver’s bet is about him being right, not Obama winning. My guess is that he’d make the same bet if Romney were up in his forecast. His allegiance is to having the right model, and his ideology takes a back seat.
If you think that being a “Times journalist” is some kind of magic elixir of credibility for a guy whose blog was already widely read and quoted, and that the issue with Silver is left vs. right, instead of innumerate establishment political journalist vs. fact-based political journalism, then you are a member of the old guard, no matter how smart you are about journalism and truth.