Nate Silver Points Out NYT's 'Change of Tone' on FiveThirtyEight
By Ran Aubrey Frazier
Statistician, writer, and political prognosticator Nate Silver, who ended his relationship with The New York Times last year and relaunched his website FiveThirtyEight under ESPN's aegis, critiqued his former publication in a data analysis posted on his site this week.
Since leaving The New York Times, Silver said, he has received "substantially more negative sentiments about FiveThirtyEight" than while he was at the paper. As data, Silver examined each of the 33 articles about FiveThirtyEight written by Paul Krugman, an economics and politics columnist at the Times, categorizing Krugman's positions as "favorable," "unfavorable," or "neutral" in nature.
FiveThirtyEight joined The New York Times August 25, 2010, having operated as an independent blog until that time. Prior to joining the paper, Krugman wrote seven stories about the blog or Silver — four favorable, two neutral, and one unfavorable.
During the blog's relationship with the Times, Krugman referred to the blog or Silver 21 times — 15 favorable references, five neutral, and one unfavorable.
However, since March 17, when FiveThirtyEight relaunched under the ownership of ESPN, Krugman "has mentioned FiveThirtyEight four times in just nine days, all in negative contexts," according to Silver's analysis.
Silver acknowledged that Krugman's shift in his opinion of the site might be attributable to its new writers or expanded coverage areas. Indeed, Krugman is not alone in his criticism of FiveThirtyEight, which came under fire recently for its hiring of Roger Pielke Jr., a controversial science writer.
While noting that "it can be easy to extrapolate a spurious trend from a limited number of data points," Silver concluded that "at his current pace, Mr. Krugman will write 425 more blog posts about FiveThirtyEight between now and the 2016 presidential election."