Last week, Nate Silver stunned the world once again, but not with eerily accurate election predicitions. He announced that he’d be leaving the New York Times for ESPN. Seem like a weird, random move? You’d probably leave too if you were as hated as Nate Silver.
Silver has been nothing short of a gentleman about moving himself and his FiveThirtyEight brand to ESPN. He describes his new spot like its a “dream job,” but a conflicting report from the Times itself suggests that Silver is gone because no one really liked him very much.
According to NYT public editor Margaret Sullivan, Silver’s new, radical and accurate way of analyzing politics was offensive to the old guard, who favor polling and “punditry” (though to be fair to the Times, they do a lot of good investigative work). Silver once famously described political opinion making as “fundamentally useless.”
“He was, in a word, disruptive,” Sullivan said.
That’s the very definition of letting the door hit you on they way out, kids.
But Silver says the cultural issues surrounding his leave from the Times are “getting a bit more play than they should.”
“I’m interested in running a website and building a business here. I’m not interested in who I get a beer with,” Silver said in an ESPN conference call.
He said that his own allegedly soured relationships with jealous NYT journalists were not a “big factor” in his decision. “We don’t want to dwell too much on our relationships there,” he said. Well, the Times does.
Whether the Times is just trying to be honest about what a quirky oddball Nate Silver was to work with, it does seem strange that they’d stick a knife in his back as he’s walking out the door. And for what, one last bit of circulation attached to his name? To be frank, this just looks like a bad break-up that the Times isn’t handling very well emotionally.
But Silver is not so sentimental. He’s a brand man who wants to build himself one hell of a website. A place you can go for politics and sports, maybe weather, education, economics, everything. The Times, and many media outlets I’d wager, are probably just miffed they didn’t think of it first.
Are you a fan of Nate Silver? What do you think of his move to ESPN?