July 23, 2013
So now we have a new, and scary, experiment from Nate Silver.
Silver is the mathematician and pollster whose genius at applying numbers to the news produced a great moment in American journalism during the 2012 elections, when he showed news pundits to be completely without credibility. He of course had been doing that for some time in other realms, but to stand on the hill of The New York Times, to make strong assertions about the outcome of an election beforehand against all the shouters, and to be proved right—there never was such a moment, as far as I know.
He started by using his mathematics with baseball. At the Times he extended it into politics, quickly becoming the dominant voice in the analysis of electoral politics.
This is a great force for change in journalism: proving that numbers matter. And that they can trump the pundits. Now, suddenly, Nate is taking us down a steep roller coaster slope that makes our stomachs drop. He’s going to take his serious, numbers journalism to TV. TV? Is this possible?
July 22, 2013
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."
January 24, 2013
The Neiman Journalism Lab ran a piece yesterday by Sam Petulla on the increasing use of "sentiment analysis" in journalism. If the term is unfamiliar, the practice probably isn't. It's the use of such things a Facebook comments and analytical software to separate positive comments from negative ones, and to see how they correlate with, say, the results of an election.
October 1, 2012
Dan Balz of The Washington Post did an interesting story over the weekend, or so I thought initially. With all the polls showing a trend toward Obama, and the election only weeks away, what do political scientists say about who will win?
I'm not sure that expert are going to have the inside track on things, but I thought it would be interesting to hear what they had to say.
Balz began with numbers and percentages from people with impressive academic titles, and I was wrapped up in it until I got to the sixth graf. "Their projection, made 299 days before the election..."
What? They made these projections last year? Who cares what somebody thought last year; we didn't even know who the Republican nominee would be.
I felt misled. Balz might have better left all of this to moulder in the academic journal in which he found it. Or if he was determined to report it, he should have told us in the lede that these projections were made last year.