David Kirkpatrick

November 18, 2008

Nate Silver opines on today’s media and Lee Atwater

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:24 pm

Insightful post from Nate Silver on today’s mediaand an added bit on Lee Atwater operating in today’s blogospherized political environment.

I’m really happy to see Nate and Sean at FiveThirtyEight keeping up analysis of the political scene. For anyone who doesn’t know, Nate is a statistician for Baseball Prospectus and brought rock-and-roll number cruching skills to this year’s election. And pretty much nailed the results. Probably has changed the world of political polling and projections forever, because partisan hacks just get exposed in his model.

He became something of a media darling with multiple television appearances as the site grew in traffic. It was a point of wonder what would happen at FiveThirtyEight once the election was over and there were no projections in the near future. Looks like, to all our benefit, those guys are going to sort through their thoughts and apply lessons learned to share some inside dope with the blogosphere. And I think that’s great. I love the site and hope it only continues to grow.

From the first link:

CBS’s underlying problem — and the commonality between the three items that I described above — is the arbitrary and largely ineffectual nature of the fact-checking process employed by the mainstream media. I have written for perhaps a dozen major publications over the span of my career, and the one with the most thorough fact-checking process is by some margin Sports Illustrated. Although this is an indication of the respect with which SI accords its brand, it does not speak so well of the mainstream political media that you are more likely to see an unverified claim repeated on the evening news than you are to see in the pages of your favorite sports periodical.

One of the questions triggered by the Frontlineprogram is what would have happened if Atwater were still alive today; might he have had more success in undermining Barack Obama than Steve Schmidt apparently did? My answer is very probably not, because the blogosphere serves as the fact-checkers that the mainstream media is too negligent to employ. On the contrary, I think that Mr. Atwater would have been smart enough to realize that he’d be eaten alive by Daily Kosand Media Matters and Keith Olbermann, and would be thoroughly enjoying himself in retirement playing in a blues band in South Carolina somewhere.