This Topic Never Gets Old

I agree with DougJ that if Silver fails, he will fail as a contrarian, and if Klein fails, he’ll fail as the next coming of David Broder. I agree with TimF that Pielke was a bad hire for Silver, and John is right that Ambrosino is a bad hire for Klein. And those two are not only bad hires but might be canaries in the contrarian/Slatepitch/sensible centrist coal mine.

That all said, these two ventures are, along with First Look Media, the only well-financed competition in our current media desert. They’ll exist in a market where the leading “liberal” newspaper felt it had to hire Ross Douthat to make sure the Times evenhandedly represented a viewpoint most recently seen at the Vatican Council of 1869. In their market, Richard Cohen still has a job, the Atlantic just hired David Frum, and even the Facebook-rich, supposedly liberal owner of the New Republic is unable to keep that publication from being what it’s always been. In that world, I’m willing to have a lot more than three days of patience with Silver’s new site while he figures out what he means by “data driven journalism”.

If what he means is that weak piece by Pielke, and this other even weaker piece about how the flight 370 will be found (apparently Bayesian statistics are involved, but I challenge you to figure out exactly how), then 538 won’t be long for this world. But maybe it means Harry Enten’s 15 tight paragraphs, backed by a wide-ranging look at polls and election history, about the political climate in Arizona. Or maybe it means a cogent, fact-based look at whether this winter really was that bad that doesn’t trot out a dozen hoary platitudes and is fairly free of anecdote. For some reason, our current media is incapable of reliably producing either of these types of stories, and if 538 can fill that void, they’ll probably do OK.

The problem that Silver and Klein face is that they’ve promised to do something extraordinary where just ordinary would probably be good enough. An independent 538 with a couple of other writers, and an independent Wonkbook free of the need to pretend that the Washington Post editorial board is anything but a bunch of loons, would have been a significant improvement in the current media landscape. My guess is that they couldn’t interest ESPN and Vox with such a ho-hum pitch. Still, in a world where the last “big” breakaway publication was Politico, which essentially promised to take the shittiest part of DC media culture, distill it down to the purest essence of fecal matter, smear it all over a webpage, and deliver every morning before the budding Penns and Shrums of Washington have had their Starbucks, I’m going to wait to pass judgment for a few months. Especially since almost any media outlet that focuses on data and close reading of public policy is a voice that will probably favor progressive policies on the whole.

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78 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    I’ve decided that I am a foxy hedgehog.

  2. 2
    Baud says:

    BTW, Politifact sometimes gets it right also.

    But I endorse the wait and see approach.

  3. 3
    Biff Longbotham says:

    You could have used the BJ ‘Obama 2 week failed presidency’ tag for this post, because these voices of doom and gloom that would condemn anything new without giving it a chance need to chill.

  4. 4
    MomSense says:

    I’m excited about this new climate data initiative with NOAA NASA USGS and DOD. http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog.....ommitments

  5. 5
    Baud says:

    One more thing, I don’t agree with this.

    Especially since almost any media outlet that focuses on data and close reading of public policy is a voice that will probably favor progressive policies on the whole.

    Just because our current media is too lazy to work with data doesn’t mean that data can’t be manipulated to serve conservative ends. Not accusing Silver of that, but there is a whole industry out there that manipulates data for the highest bidder.

  6. 6
    Tommy says:

    @Baud: I have a MA in Journalism. It was a working school. You were supposed to go and write for a living. I didn’t.

    We were taught to write for a 7th degree education. The studies have been done. If Nate writes a ton of details most of the public could care less. You and I might care, but we are not the mass audience. It is why we come to a place like this.

  7. 7
    NotMax says:

    Sturgeon’s Law.

    That and the late, great Jack Germond’s observation that “We’re not paid to say ‘I don’t know’ ” must always be kept foremost in mind.

  8. 8
    Baud says:

    @Tommy:

    You’re talking about the writing. I’m talking about the back office work that’s supposed to inform what is written. Cheap and captured may be better words than lazy to describe the current media.

  9. 9
    NotMax says:

    @Baud

    The final clause of ‘get it first, and get it right’ has been lost to the mists of time.

  10. 10
    seabe says:

    Aside from the fact that Jay Rosen is probably one of the biggest suck ups to power and a pretty shitty hire, w-e. All three ventures thus far have been nothing but fail.

  11. 11
    Tommy says:

    @Baud: I worked in a news room as an intern. How I was assigned a story was not a “cool” thing. There was no lets inform the public. It was what will move papers. Oh of course there was the thought that we are giving info to citizens, but dig a level deeper it was clear that wasn’t the case.

  12. 12
    Davis X. Machina says:

    , I’m going to wait to pass judgment for a few months.

    You might wait, but I’m going to pass judgement right now.

    I’m pissed because Nate Silver’s site is not indistinguishable from the front page of Daily Kos.

    I mean, I know what the the truth looks like.

  13. 13
    Kevin says:

    Mistermix, I take issue with this:

    An independent 538 with a couple of other writers, and an independent Wonkbook free of the need to pretend that the Washington Post editorial board is anything but a bunch of loons, would have been a significant improvement in the current media landscape. My guess is that they couldn’t interest ESPN and Vox with such a ho-hum pitch.

    Having read both extensively, I don’t think either of them are being pushed into something they don’t want to do. This is them. Silly contrarianism masked by stats? Nate’s been doing that. He also seems to think Ross Douthat is one of the only good columnists around. I will just let that hang in the air like a bad fart.

    Ezra doesn’t pretend that the editorial board is anything but a bunch of loons. He actually believes that. Or he cynically wants to be them. Either way, nothing he has ever written shows him to be above that. He is the “wonk” who continues to take Paul Ryan seriously as a fellow “wonk” with serious proposals. Ezra will than eviscerate Mr Ryan’s budgets, but come a month or two, he’ll be back talking about how we need more serious wonks like Paul Ryan.

    Ezra wants to be the editorial board. He wants to be BFF with the Fred Hiatt’s and David Brooks of the world.

  14. 14
    Richard Grant says:

    Wait to pass judgment for a few months is brilliant. Too many people do the equivalent of reviewing movies based only on the script’s logline.

  15. 15
    Cervantes says:

    I agree with DougJ that if Silver fails, he will fail as a contrarian, and if Klein fails, he’ll fail as the next coming of David Broder. I agree with TimF that Pielke was a bad hire for Silver, and John is right that Ambrosino is a bad hire for Klein.

    I don’t agree with any of the above — certainly not yet. I’m also not prepared to judge First Look Media yet.

    Like Chairman Mao, that great agnostic, I favor a policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom. (Unlike Chairman Mao, I’m not saying that just to entice the snakes out of their caves so I can behead them.)

  16. 16
    MattF says:

    What concerns me is that these new ventures are now negotiating their roles in the Village. And the omens don’t look that good. Why does it have to be framed as ‘contrarian’ or ‘centrist’? Who decided that? Are there really no other choices? Like… oh, I don’t know… ‘adult’?

  17. 17
    EconWatcher says:

    @Kevin:

    I don’t get all the Ezra hate. He actually digs into things and offers up, you know, facts and analysis. I kinda like that.

    And maybe he offers a kind word or two about Paul Ryan’s alleged wonkery because Ryan, unlike most Republicans, actually sometimes includes enough substance to provide a target to shoot at.

    So what do you say we wait and see what Ezra comes up with? Maybe he’ll turn into Slate, but no one knows that yet.

  18. 18
    Cervantes says:

    Oh, and a sentence with both “fecal matter” and “pass judgment” in it may not be the look you were going for.

    Or was it?

    (Actually, that locution is from before your time, isn’t it? Sorry!)

  19. 19
    JerryN says:

    Is there a reason that everyone ignores Josh Marshall and TPM? It seems to me that he pretty much built a center-left news site from the ground up over the course of several years, yet I never hear TPM mentioned in the chatter about these new ventures.

  20. 20
    jayackroyd says:

    @Baud: And here I was thinking that you were just foxy.

  21. 21
    Cervantes says:

    @JerryN: I think it’s because TPM has been around since 2000 (which is forever in Internet years) — but you’re right, Josh has been trying to do something different (especially now that he has built a pay-wall).

    There are other models (or, at least, web-sites) no one discusses, either, partly because they’re not new and (I suspect) partly because they’re not hyping themselves in the right circles.

  22. 22
    EconWatcher says:

    @JerryN:

    I think Josh Marshall wrote something very, very interesting at the outset of the Iraq War back in 2003. http://www.washingtonmonthly.c.....shall.html
    But he’s been boring as hell since then. YMMV.

  23. 23
    cleek says:

    no, no, no, mistermix; the masses have spoken and deemed all of these things to be irredeemable shit. the narratives are now fixed. and defending them means you’re a bad liberal, and probably a homophobic denialist, too.

  24. 24
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cervantes: Not going to go with Zhou Enlai on the French Revolution? “It’s too soon to tell.”

  25. 25
    monkeyfister says:

    To his credit, David Frum seems to have had his “come to Jesus” moment, recently. Like Cole, there seems to be a genuinely decent human Being in there. Frum the Atlantic “Centrist” is better than Frum the GOP hire of choice.

  26. 26
    dnfree says:

    I just read the linked-to interview with Jim Newell, because I’ve found previous links to his work to be interesting. What a horrendous set of questions! Who is this Betsy person? Why did he bother answering the questions? He refused to answer what kind of beverage he is, so good for him, but why even respond to the rest of the questions when that’s the first one, and they don’t really get any better?

  27. 27
    KenB says:

    With regards to the Bayesian statistics, it’s above my pay grade but my understanding is that SAR (Search and Rescue) does use Bayesian search theory. Not sure if the article holds together or not.

  28. 28
    different-church-lady says:

    Has it ever occurred to you guys that all you’re doing is arguing about the quality of the pornography?

  29. 29
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @JerryN: Too center. Not left enough. Simples.

  30. 30
    different-church-lady says:

    @Tommy:

    …most of the public could care less.

    They could?

  31. 31
    jayackroyd says:

    I think both these guys thrived in an environment that they fit very well, the health care reform question for ezra, the idiotic horse race pundit coverage for elections for Nate. It’s not clear to me that this scales–that there are enough topics that will benefit from Ezra’s wonkery or Nate’s Bayesian wizardry.

    For the most part the right policy direction is pretty clear–the story is how do you keep monied interests from interfering with effective public policy.

    It’s harder for Nate–the stories aren’t just lying around outside of electoral politics. And he hasn’t chosen to focus on the ones I’d think he would have, like guns as a study in public health or Kevin Drum’s lead based paint issue.

    Climate change is also a natural fit. Toilet seat covers, not so much.

    On the bright side, sports is a good fit–plenty of ill-informed widely held opinion that can be destroyed by looking at the facts.

  32. 32
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Baud:

    Not accusing Silver of that, but there is a whole industry out there that manipulates data for the highest bidder.

    Professors of economics and/or finance, not all but many. Some sincerely believe the bs the peddle, however that doesn’t make it true.

  33. 33

    Why do we have to have stupid nicknames for people who are good at math. What is this wonk, nerd, geek? Can’t you like math and be a normal person?

  34. 34
    jayackroyd says:

    One more thing..Wonkbook doesn’t need ezra, and is still really valuable. A well constructed early morning digest is a great thing. The Felix/Reuters digest is in some ways better,but it’s not as complete or timely as (still) Wonkbook.

  35. 35

    @EconWatcher: He is a peddler of CW.
    -his breathless coverage of the ACA website rollout (OMG sky is falling and we is all dead)
    -his coverage of the financial crisis (who could have knowed?)

    Aspiring David Broder, is what he is.

  36. 36
    dmsilev says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: “Wonk” means something different from “nerd” or “geek”. A wonk is someone who is a policy expert. It’s generally associated with at least some numeracy, but more important is a deep knowledge of the domain area in question (healthcare, for instance).

  37. 37
    Cervantes says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Not going to go with Zhou Enlai on the French Revolution? “It’s too soon to tell.”

    That’s a good line, too, but it works best [*] after a few decades (at least).

    Whereas after mere weeks, it really is too soon to tell — unless one feels a desperate need to judge quickly, which I don’t in this case.

    —————————————

    [*] That is, it works at all only if we ignore the fact that Zhou never said it about the French Revolution. Through translators, in 1972, he was speaking about the Paris Commune — the student riots in France in 1968. You may recall that many of the rioters were French Maoists (Zhou was no fool). And another thing people often remember (or at least assert) incorrectly: I don’t think Zhou was conversing with Nixon at the time; I think he was actually talking to Kissinger.

  38. 38

    @dmsilev: It still sounds like a stupid school yard insult to me. YMMV.

    ETA: MSM has a very low bar for wonkitude, I mean for them Paul Ryan is wonk.

  39. 39
    Cervantes says:

    @jayackroyd: Useful comment, thank you.

  40. 40
    Cassidy says:

    @different-church-lady: A little bit. You could always care a little less more.

  41. 41
    Cervantes says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Why do we have to have stupid nicknames for people who are good at math. What is this wonk, nerd, geek? Can’t you like math and be a normal person?

    We could write a book about just those three words. (Not worth doing it here, though.)

    “Wonk” is from the ’60s. It has nothing to do with math per se. It refers to being studious.

    In England, at least until recently, if you said something was “wonky” that could have meant it was unsteady or unstable.

    Geeks were people (“wild men” in circuses and carnivals) who bit the heads off live snakes and chickens. Literally.

    “Nerd” we can save for another time.

    Words and language are endless fun.

  42. 42
    JerryN says:

    @Davis X. Machina: But, but, but. Ezra really isn’t any further left and Nate is probably more center-right / libertarian than anything else, although time will tell. I think (to answer my own question) it may be that TPM went almost in an old-school newspaper direction, building up a news reporting staff that actually creates the bulk of the daily content, with separate analysis and opinion sections of the site. It is somewhat boring or at least not splashy, but it has been pretty successful. I guess that I’m a little surprised that nobody has really tried to launch something similar.

  43. 43

    @JerryN: Some of TPM’s coverage can be a bit breathless like Huffpo.

  44. 44
    Someguy says:

    I’m pretty stoked about the marriage of sports and politics in the 537/Vox/ESPN presence. The personal is the political.

  45. 45
    Cervantes says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    It still sounds like a stupid school yard insult to me.

    That’s what “wonk” was meant to be — but then wonks decided to wear the scorn like a badge of honor (if I may borrow a phrase from someone who was decidedly not a wonk).

  46. 46
    Bob says:

    538 is sure to be a gold mine for Sullivan’s “Chart of the Day.”

  47. 47
    Barry says:

    @KenB: “With regards to the Bayesian statistics, it’s above my pay grade but my understanding is that SAR (Search and Rescue) does use Bayesian search theory. Not sure if the article holds together or not. ”

    IIRC (to lazy to Google) it’s been in use since WWII; first developed for finding submarines.

  48. 48
    Cervantes says:

    @Barry:

    IIRC (to lazy to Google) it’s been in use since WWII; first developed for finding submarines.

    No, the method was developed in the ’60s. It was used to find a missing hydrogen bomb. (Really.)

  49. 49
    KenB says:

    @Barry:

    I suspect that the article was misusing Bayesian the same way people use uncertainty principle when they mean observer effect. but I do think there is a basis for it in general for at sea searches.

  50. 50
    Butch says:

    @JerryN: I think the TPM lost its direction for a while; it became a great place to learn about the latest nonsense from McCain and Lindsey Graham, but not much else. It seems much improved of late.

  51. 51
    Alex S. says:

    @Someguy:

    Football is a center-right sport, discuss…

  52. 52
    BobbyThomson says:

    @JerryN:

    Is there a reason that everyone ignores Josh Marshall and TPM?

    Maybe because his site has been a glorified link aggregator for at least five years? Maybe because, by his own admission, he takes his editorial direction from what the 24-hour “news” stations are doing? Maybe because it takes him so long to reach blindingly obvious conclusions that people have already moved on to something else?

  53. 53
    kindness says:

    I don’t understand the emphasis that is being placed on Klein or Silver. Seems to me that you let it unfold and see where it goes. Let actual record become record. They may do well and they may suck but until they start producing anything I don’t really give them much time of day. Yea I know, it is in our genes to point at things and bitch and moan but really now…..At least let them present what they can and then either praise them or slag them.

  54. 54
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Cervantes: Funny story. The Andalusian fisherman who saw where the bomb went in, and was dragooned into assisting the USAF with recovery, later claimed salvage rights in court in NY. The USAF settled with him for an undisclosed amount. I’m suspecting he didn’t fish much after that.

  55. 55
    The Pale Scot says:

    Maybe my buttons got pushed by the climate sites I read, but this Pielke guy seems like an attempt to get some of that sweet Exxon ad money. Look! Even liberal Vox (’cause if you ain’t Fox) doubts climate change projections!

  56. 56
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Still, in a world where the last “big” breakaway publication was Politico, which essentially promised to take the shittiest part of DC media culture, distill it down to the purest essence of fecal matter, smear it all over a webpage, and deliver every morning before the budding Penns and Shrums of Washington have had their Starbucks

    Just had to see this again. I really like it…it sums up the vapidity of the Village quite nicely.

  57. 57
    evolved beyond the fist mistermix says:

    @Cervantes: Parse it carefully.

    @BobbyThomson: Disagree – Whatever you think of their reporting vs link aggregation (and they do a fair amount of original reporting), the reason they’re ignored is probably a mixture of being considered “liberal media” and being considered something of a blog (i.e., not a serious journalistic enterprise). The gatekeepers of journalism have determined that both Silver and Klein are serious journalists because each of them wrote at a serious newspaper before spinning off.

  58. 58
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @evolved beyond the fist mistermix:

    The gatekeepers of journalism have determined that both Silver and Klein are serious journalists because each of them wrote at a serious newspaper before spinning off.

    Yeah, they’re kinda in the club. They’re not total amateurs, just not steeped in the brine of Broderism yet.

    When the time comes, no quarter for the “gatekeepers of journalism”.

  59. 59
    Someguy says:

    @Alex S.: Football is a center-right sport, discuss…

    Of course. Respect for authority, conventional thinking, reflexive rejection of innovation and “the new.” Pairs with a gaudy kind of knee jerk patriotism the way a good cabernet pairs with rib roast, it’s main purpose in life seems to be not about the game but about protecting the institution, as Goodell puts it, “protecting the Shield.” The leadership doesn’t seem to espouse what the fans espouse, and they get fabulously rich exploiting them. Plus Nixon was perhaps the greatest football fan of all time. Open and shut case, really. Used to be a transgressive sport the way rugby and lacrosse are… it’s a shame how it evolved socially, really. Sort of lost the spirit there, probably sometime around 1961.

    NBA, on the other hand… now that’s some straight up anarchic shit. Or perhaps radical libertarian Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist shit, particularly in light of the wage scale.

  60. 60
    Cervantes says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Funny story. The Andalusian fisherman who saw where the bomb went in, and was dragooned into assisting the USAF with recovery, later claimed salvage rights in court in NY.

    Yes. The fisherman’s lawyer was Herb Brownell, who had been Ike’s Attorney-General! Imagine how that happened.

    (Anyway, Herb was a good guy, a Progressive Republican, very strong on civil rights.)

    The bomb, by the way, was hauled out of the Mediterranean with much trepidation and eventually sent to Sandia, where it was on display for a while. I don’t know where it is today … but I sure hope the Air Force does!

    The USAF settled with him for an undisclosed amount. I’m suspecting he didn’t fish much after that.

    McNamara, not thinking ahead as usual, had announced that the bomb was valued at $2,000,000,000. After it was found, given that dollar value, the fisherman could have asked for $20 million (or more) but he only asked for $5 million. In the end he settled for exactly $10,000 (and was given about$5,000 more for the use of his boats, etc.) And yes, he did go back to fishing — but on a grander scale.

  61. 61
    Cervantes says:

    @evolved beyond the fist mistermix:

    @Cervantes: Parse it carefully.

    Oh, I did. Are you saying you intended to use “pass” in that way? If that is the look you were going for, then more power to you — but because you’re the one doing the passing in that sentence, I don’t know that it works.

    Not that any of this matters here, obviously.

  62. 62
    Barry says:

    The real reasons to worry about Nate Silver’s new deal is that he’s hiring people with bad track records. There is data on Pilke, none of it good. The only reason to hire him is to bullsh*t/lie on global warming.

    If a president of a college covered up a series of rapes (not sayin’ who, but they’re ‘Christian’), and was subsequently hired by a second college, the goals of the people running that second college are clear.

  63. 63
    Cervantes says:

    @Barry: Sure, but one can “worry about Nate Silver’s new deal” without prematurely condemning it for all eternity. No?

  64. 64
    Cervantes says:

    @evolved beyond the fist mistermix:

    The gatekeepers of journalism have determined that both Silver and Klein are serious journalists because each of them wrote at a serious newspaper before spinning off.

    Josh Marshall went to college at Princeton and has a Ph. D. in history from Brown. He was at The American Prospect for a few years, first in Cambridge and then as their Washington editor.

  65. 65
    jayackroyd says:

    One more thing Nate’s signature success–using statistical analysis on publicly available polls to make predictions of election results–uses open source methods. Sam Wang actually did slightly better than he did in 2012. It happens that Sam diddled with the model less than Nate did, and happened to perform better, but that performance difference is within the error bar.

    The important result, that the presidential race was close, but certain, was one Sam also made, in his case using entirely open source methodology. Anyone can do it.

  66. 66
    JoyfulA says:

    @Butch: The great thing TPM did was to uncover the US Attorneys firings under Bush. It was a crowd-sourcing operation after the first clues emerged, and it worked beautifully.

    I’ve always wondered why TPM didn’t continue and do more of that. It was fascinating and made me check in several times a day.

  67. 67
    Calouste says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Well, MSM journalism is for people who are too bad at math to even go to business school and too bad at hiding their lies to become a lawyer. But luckily for them, neither of that matters in their chosen profession!

  68. 68

    I’m remembering that Silver once said he’d probably have voted for Romney in 2012. He must sincerely that both sides of a political argument are somehow of equal merit, a thing he would never, ever assert with regards to the validity of data.

    I read the Pielke piece without knowing who the author was, got disgusted, and unsubscribed from the site. Yes, Silver may eventually learn better, but I’m damned if I’ll spend time sorting his wheat from his chaff while he does—I’ve got better things to do with my scarce reading time than waiting for on-the-job training to school him in journalistic ethics.

  69. 69

    Afterthought: I think the reason Silver and Klein are getting the financial support is that they’re thought safe centrists by the people who make the financial decisions. There’s plenty of that already in the media. So why should I care what Silver and Klein have to say? There’s statisticians at Princeton who do as good a job as Silver; called 2012 just like he did and blogged about it. I’ll read them instead. I can read Hansen and Real Climate on climate, and so on.

    Now if someone was willing to do a reality-based site, do journalism, I’d subscribe in a heartbeat.

  70. 70
    WaterGirl says:

    @Someguy: So are you doing the 539 / 537 thing just to be funny, or to annoy people? (Or maybe that wasn’t you with 539 earlier this week?)

  71. 71
    Someguy says:

    That wasn’t me. Snarkasm aside I do think 538+sports+ESPN is going to be collossally fucking douchey and I don’t particularly trust Ezra and crew as a straight news source, except insofar as they will have a consistent spin that is susceptible to interpretation / conversion into news, if you read it just right. The sports+politics thing also has the potential to help escalate the annual family post-Thanksgiving dinner argument over the Cowboys into the Annual Family Post-Thanksgiving Dinner Gunfight Over the Cowboys and Politics. Politics are fun but honestly, I’d rather leave them out of my sports. (Along with business, religion, my honeydo list, and a lot of other things that wear on me).

    But that’s just me. I’m sure a lot of people think it’s grand.

  72. 72
    smintheus says:

    @jayackroyd: The site pollster.com was successfully aggregating public polls at least as early as 2004. NS added only a few layers of obscurity and manipulation of data that was unnecessary and unscientific.

    The bigger point, which few seem to make, is: Who cares? The public will find out who wins on Election Day. The campaigns have vastly better and more regular polls than the public polls, so they shouldn’t be learning anything from journalists obsessing about the horse race. Like all the worst Beltway journalists, NS was treating politics as if it were a sport rather than about governance. His poll aggregating was ephemeral and, once the votes came in, irrelevant. Last thing liberals should be doing is encouraging journalism that avoids issues and tries to convince the public that the horse-race should matter to them.

  73. 73
    smintheus says:

    @BobbyThomson: And link aggregating was a big step up from his (former?) practice of just swiping other bloggers’ work without attribution.

  74. 74
    jayackroyd says:

    @smintheus: I disagree that Nate and Sam added nothing. They used modern methods to put confidence intervals around their estimates, and Sam published his methods.

    And I also think he and Sam and others did a tremendous public service–proving very clearly that all that jibber-jabber of anonymous sources in special rolodexes was utterly devoid of content–that the data that mattered was public, not reserved to well connected Villagers.

    But I agree with that the horse focus is a bad distraction from actual information, and moreover, your point about the election being all that matters should also apply to voting technology. Electronic voting serves nobody except the media–paper ballots, even if they take a week to count, is superior methodology,

  75. 75
    Mnemosyne says:

    @smintheus:

    I rarely say this, but I think I agree with jayackroyd in this case. Nate Silver and Sam Wang made statistics respectable and something that should be discussed when it comes to politics, not just the “horse race” and personalities. And I do think that people tend to be influenced by the talking heads, at least when it comes to participation — if they feel their candidate is hopeless, many people won’t bother voting at all. So having contrasting information was/is very valuable, IMO.

  76. 76
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    Pielke? Pielke is a figure of ridicule by climate bloggers. What an immense screw-up by Silver hiring that hack.

  77. 77
    smintheus says:

    @jayackroyd: Ok, but my point is that the aggregating with the statistical analysis of poll trends was already being practiced before NS appeared on the scene. Sure, he did publish more detailed statistical analyses than most, but these weren’t needed to know with fair precision where the state-by-state polls were headed. We had that back in 2004.

    And as I’ve said before, his crash and burn in the UK general election was a classic demonstration of the weaknesses in his methods, in so far as he actually has consistent methods. There it was clearly a case of “I know more than you do”, when plainly he didn’t understand the data or the politics.

    @Mnemosyne: I’m not arguing that it’s a bad thing to have people who can credibly demystify the opinion polls, if only as a counterweight to the uninformed blather of talking heads. I’m saying that NS wasn’t the first, only, or best of such analysts. The problem was the hype that grew up around his work, which he nourished as part of his business model; it became the shiny thing that distracts, in a media that’s all too ready to hype shiny distractions.

  78. 78
    Doug says:

    This made me LOL:

    “Politico, which essentially promised to take the shittiest part of DC media culture, distill it down to the purest essence of fecal matter, smear it all over a webpage, and deliver every morning before the budding Penns and Shrums of Washington have had their Starbucks”

    More of that, please!

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