Politico: NYT's New 'Upshot' Will Beat Nate Silver's New Site

Wednesday, 23 Apr 2014 10:41 AM

By Sharon Churcher

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Media critics predicted Wednesday that The New York Times’ data-driven new reporting feature, The Upshot, will trounce ESPN’s rival FiveThirtyEight.

Politico reports that the Upshot, edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning Times economics writer David Leonhardt, is creating buzz.

Its first report projected that Democrats have a 51 percent chance of holding the Senate in November. FiveThirtyEight carried a similar analysis, but lacked Upshot’s "clean, lovely charts and graphics," Politico said.

Named after the 538 members of the U.S. electoral college, FiveThirtyEight ran in the Times from 2010 until last summer, when its statistical wizard, Nate Silver, defected to ESPN.

Political junkies had flocked to the section when he was at the Times, where his projections on the 2012 elections were so accurate that The New Yorker ran a cartoon in which a doctor tells his patient, "Do your breathing exercises, have a hot bath, take a Xanax, get into bed, and read Nate Silver…."

But his relaunch just over a month ago of FiveThirtyEight at ESPN "has been largely irrelevant to the political news cycle," Politico says. "Silver's site is spending as much time looking at sports trivia as it is asking questions like, 'How many U.S. presidents had children when they took office? And how many presidents had grandchildren when they moved into the White House?'"

He not only must outshine his old newspaper with his punditry but must break the habit that Times readers have for depending on it for all their news – and that will be tough.

"Three years ago, Frank Rich, one of the most powerful and well-known writers at The New York Times, ended his three-decade career at the paper and started writing for New York Magazine. At the time, the conventional wisdom held that a writer so powerful would be able to take his audience with him," Politico said.

The vast majority of his former readers, however, continue to subscribe to the Times.

"The truth is that for all his talents, Rich doesn't command nearly the audience or the influence that he used to."

Slate also has pilloried the relaunch, calling a piece Silver carried about climate change "an embarrassment."

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