Nate Silver Says Hello to The Times, Braces for Scrutiny

Numbers machine Nate Silver said hello to New York Times readers this afternoon with his first post to

“Fundamentally, I’ve always seen FiveThirtyEight’s mission as being parallel to journalism,” wrote Mr. Silver. “Therefore, this is a pretty natural partnership. But I also recognize that this will lead to greater criticism and scrutiny,” he added.

Mr. Silver also restated the purpose of his work for new readers.

Politics is not the only place where a poor understanding of probability and statistics can color news coverage. In baseball (which I covered prior to politics), “intangibles” like clubhouse chemistry are sometimes treated as being more important than batting average, or E.R.A. But you wouldn’t find very many sportswriters who would claim, in a game in which the Yankees were trailing Boston 7-2 in the 9th inning, that it was “too close to call,” no matter how shaky the Red Sox bullpen looked, or how confident Mark Teixeira seemed at the plate. That’s the equivalent of what those pundits were doing on The McLaughlin Group.

Instead, there seems to be something about politics that can make the rational parts of the brain turn off. FiveThirtyEight was designed to be the antidote to that.

The antidote has gotten better recently. Mr. Silver touted some tweaks to the model that he will use to forecast the senate election. In 2008, he correctly predicted 35 races. Pretty sure he’s just competing against himself at this point.

By the way (cue plaid blazer, “Moe!”) what makes the “calcified old fuckers” on The McLaughlin Group such an easy target?