Summary:

The New York Times is losing a famous political writer as Nate Silver, founder of the popular FiveThirtyEight blog, leaves for ESPN. The move reflects a shift of power between media outlets and star reporters.

Nate Silver
photo: Wikipedia

Nate Silver, who achieved celebrity status last fall by correctly predicting the outcome of the Presidential election in all 50 states, is reportedly leaving the New York Times. The NYT’s Brian Stelter reported Friday night that ESPN employees say Silver will be joining the popular sports outlet.

Rumors about Silver’s future began to swirl during last November’s election, when his high-profile predictions became a fixture of daily political reporting. At the time, NYT executive editor Jill Abramson and CEO Mark Thompson said they would try hard to keep Silver as other news and political outlets expressed interest in hiring him.

The move to ESPN, which will mean a sharp turn away from politics — though Stelter reports that “in political years, [Silver] will also have a role at ABC News” — is not entirely a surprise. Silver first made his name in sabermetrics, the name given to a new generation of baseball statisticians. And, in May, he published a nearly 4,000-word piece about hockey on the FiveThirtyEight blog, entitled “Why Can’t Canada Win the Stanley Cup.”

Silver’s decision is likely also about money. While the New York Times has recently been forced to cut senior staff to shore up a shaky balance sheet, ESPN and its parent company, Disney, have the pockets to offer Silver an outsized contract.

Silver’s decision to move also reflects the shift in power between traditional media outlets and writers like Andrew Sullivan and Nate Silver who can become independent franchises.

Both Silver and ESPN declined the NYT’s request for comment. It is unclear what will happen to the FiveThirtyEight blog, which has a few writers besides Silver.

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