KSJ Tracker Tag: fivethirtyeight

November 5, 2014


Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight improves its science coverage in a single stroke.

Nate Silver's data site FiveThirtyEight.com has improved its faulty science coverage in one single master stroke: It has hired the widely respected and admired science writer Christie Aschwanden.

Silver, justly acclaimed for his analysis of election data, has not shown the same skillfulness in his coverage of science. He hired an academic economist to be his principal science writer, and, as I've reported here and here, that site has made some unfortunate errors. Aschwanden, an energetic freelancer who has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many others, will not make those mistakes.

Aschwanden ...

July 28, 2014

Psst, Nieman Journalism Lab: Explanatory journalism isn't "the new craze of the past year."

It's not just a new craze, people, it's a movement!

It's Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight, and Vox, and The Upshot at The New York Times, and now--a new entrant--Storyline at The Washington Post.

"Explanatory journalism," writes media analyst Ken Doctor at Nieman Journalism Lab, is "the new craze of the past year, built on ideas as old as good journalism itself. Or call it the wonk wars...How do we explain this movement?"

Doctor's post--mostly an interview with David Leonhardt, who runs The Upshot--says the "craze" arose from the explosion of data and the more ...

July 10, 2014


Why Brazil will never read Nate Silver again.

I wouldn't be surprised if nobody in Brazil ever read Nate Silver's fivetheirtyeight.com again.

A lot of readers in the U.S. might abandon it, too.

On July 7, a day before Brazil was demolished by Germany in a game that ended with an almost unbelievable score of 7-1, Silver predicted Brazil would win--even without two of its star players. After an exhausting--and I do mean exhausting--analysis that could engage only the most diehard statisticians, Silver concluded that Brazil had a 65 percent chance of winning against Germany.

It's hard to imagine how Silver could ...

May 16, 2014

More on Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight and the risks of older fatherhood.

Yesterday, I criticized Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight.com for a poor job of writing about the health risks faced by the children of older fathers.

I noted that it omitted an important 2012 genetic study from deCODE Genetics in Iceland that found that men pass on increasing numbers of mutations to their children as they age.

Now Virginia Hughes, who blogs at National Geographic's Phenomena, reminds me that she did a piece at the time criticizing the Iceland study. Her "Top 3 Reasons to Stop Fretting About Being an Old Dad" make a lot of sense. While accepting the findings of the study, she notes that

May 15, 2014

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight stumbles again with its science coverage.

Two months ago, I eagerly took a look at Nate Silver's new, independent news site, FiveThirtyEight.com, to see what his data-driven approach would do to improve science coverage.

Sadly, the lead story in his science vertical was an unfortunate piece that pretended to provide a statistical analysis of health coverage, but fell far short of anything approaching the rigor that Silver applies to his political polling. (For example, one term in the equation was "gut feeling.")

Two months later, I'm sorry to report that things are no better.

March 28, 2014

Nate Silver's 'data journalism' takes more hits

I'm apparently not the only one to take a shot at Nate Silver's new news site. He's taking hits from all over.

Tabitha M. Powledge at On Science Blogs wraps up much of the coverage--all of it negative, as far as I can tell. The principal line of attack is not a subtle one: Silver's new data journalism site lacks, uh, how should I put this...


Powledge quotes various commentators who have said that, and she also raises questions about some of the people Silver has chosen to cover science. Roger Pielke, Jr. and Emily Oster are idiosyncratic choices, to say the least.

Powledge thinks Silver will get better, because it always takes time for startups to find their footing.

She could be right. But does she have the data?

-Paul Raeburn


March 18, 2014

Nate Silver's new FiveThirtyEight dishes out statistical nonsense on health coverage.

Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight.com relaunched yesterday at its new home--ESPN--vowing to focus its coverage on five areas: politics, economics, life, sports--and science.

The inclusion of science was a surprise to me. And possibly a mistake, unless FiveThirtyEight can quickly improve the quality of the "science" it's publishing. The lead story on the relaunched site's first day--"Finally, a Formula for Decoding Health News"--was abysmal.

Silver's most famous achievement was calling 50 states correctly in the 2012 presidential election. But in a manifesto entitled What the Fox Knows, Silver says some others did nearly as well, and that his election forecasts "didn’t represent the totality, or even the most important part, of our journalism at FiveThirtyEight. We also covered topics ranging from the increasing acceptance of gay marriage to the election of the new pope, along with subjects in sports, science, lifestyle and economics." He continued:

July 22, 2013

Nate Silver leaves The New York Times for ESPN.

The pre-eminent pollster and mathematician Nate Silver is leaving The New York Times for ESPN. His reasons are unclear, but the public editor at the Times, Margaret Sullivan, reports that Silver "went against the grain for some at the Times" and that when she wrote about him in her column, "three high-profile Times political journalists" criticized him and his work, and were tough on Sullivan "for seeming to endorse what he wrote, since I was suggesting that it get more visibility."

Sullivan wrote:

November 5, 2012

In defense of Nate Silver: Pundits bare their misunderstanding.

I feel sorry for Dylan Byers, a media blogger at Politico, and, from what I read, an entertaining and competent writer.

I'm embarrassed for David Brooks, a conservative columnist at The New York Times and a smart guy who writes about human nature in addition to politics.

As for Joe Scarborough, I'm always happy to catch a few minutes of his intelligent msnbc morning show, Morning Joe, when my kids aren't watching Phineas and Ferb. But I'm cringing at his remarks, too.