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News orgs quietly hiring "ideological" journalists

The New York Times has announced that it will now host liberal numbers guru Nate Silver at its Web site -- another sign that dreaded "ideological" reporters and analysts are increasingly finding a home at stodgy old non-ideological news outlets.

Ben Smith makes a good point, noting that The Times, in its announcement, seemed unwilling to acknowledge that Silver is liberal or progressive, only describing him as someone with a "unique perspective":

That strikes me as odd. Silver, like the Post's bloggers, is one of a new group of journalists who aim to replace the studied neutrality old MSM types like me practice with an openness about their political views. He examined his own in an item defining himself as a "rational progressive" and wrote elsewhere that he's not registered to a political party but supported Obama in 2008.

I'm not sure why the Times would avoid saying that they've hired a respected online liberal voice, rather than just some kind of numbers guru with a "unique perspective."

I don't know why The Times neglected to advertise Silver's liberalism. But this goes to a larger point: The fear big news orgs have of letting fact-based and ideologically-motivated journalism mix and mingle wth one another. Silver is not easy to categorize -- he is saturated in factual information, but he has clear ideological leanings, and more to the point, advertises them. And beyond Silver, fear of letting ideology taint the act of fact-gathering is widespread in old-guard media precincts.

Even Ben's bosses at Politico, who have fully embraced a Web-based journalism model, still adhere scrupulously to the old-school "non-ideological" approach to gathering and purveying information.

So it's worth restating the premise of this new model, at least when it's practiced at its best: It's possible to care about what happens in politics -- you can prefer one outcome to another -- while simultaneously doing fact-based journalism that's fair, professional, and has integrity.

Some will disagree with that. But the fact that traditional news orgs are hiring more and more people in this vein represents, on some level, a quiet capitulation to this model.

Indeed, news orgs are adjusting to an uncomfortable reality: More and more readers want to get political news from sources that don't disguise their sympathies, rather than through more traditionally "objective" filters that too often place a premium on fake even-handedness at the expense of taking a stand on what's right and true.

And congrats to Nate.

By Greg Sargent  |  June 3, 2010; 2:13 PM ET
Categories:  Political media  
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Silver makes his opinions known, but there is a distinct separation between his numbers work and his opinion blogs. I think there's a pretty vast difference between hiring Silver and simply saying he has a "unique perspective" and hiring someone like Kos and saying the same--the key isn't that they're trying to *hide* his ideology, just that they're de-emphasizing it (perhaps with just cause).

Posted by: GSparks | June 3, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

New York Times has announced that it will now host liberal numbers guru Nate Silver at its Web site -- another sign that dreaded "ideological" reporters and analysts are increasingly finding a home at stodgy old non-ideological news outlets."



Except that practice is not new.

The NY Times had Conservative Republican, Presidential Speech Writer,employed as a conservative columnist, for many years.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 3, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Should have mentioned that I was referring to William Safire.

Also; recall the time that columnist George Will praised a Reagan speech, and it was later revealed that George had actually helped write the speech. Honest George just forgot to mention that, when he was singing the praises of the speech.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 3, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

"Even Ben's bosses at Politico, who have fully embraced a Web-based journalism model, still adhere scrupulously to the old-school "non-ideological" approach to gathering and purveying information."

Oh Greg, please. Politico is an enthusiastic cog in the Drudge/CNN/Halperin/Fox/WSJ media borg and you know it. The only thing they're scrupulous about is supporting corporate America, promoting status quo D.C. conventional wisdom (who among us doesn't hate DF hippies?), and advancing the narrative that the GOP really cares about the well being of the middle class.

Posted by: john7 | June 3, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Am I wrong, or did CNN just hire Erick Erickson? The man has proceeded to declare on television that he will fire live ammunition at census takers that come to his home.

Meanwhile, Nate advocates a distinctly right leaning economic philosophy, a left leaning social one, and an absolutely down the middle numbers analysis over at

The comparison could not be any more different, and while I'm glad you brought Nate's adoption elsewhere to my attention... your snark and or seriousness on this topic is a little misplaced considering Nate takes these things more seriously than promoting his next book.

Posted by: PaulW99 | June 3, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Off Topic, but I wanted women to hear about this potential break through in treating breast cancer.

"Plums can help fight breast cancer
ANI, Jun 3, 2010, 11.50am IST
Peach and plum extracts can help fight breast cancer cells, according to lab tests at Texas AgriLife Research.

AgriLife Research scientists say two phenolic compounds are responsible for the cancer cell deaths in the study, which was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. The phenols are organic compounds that occur in fruits. They are slightly acidic and may be associated with traits such as aroma, taste or color.

"It was a differential effect which is what you're looking for because in current cancer treatment with chemotherapy, the substance kills all cells, so it is really tough on the body," said Dr. David Byrne, AgriLife Research plant breeder who studies stone fruit. "Here, there is a five-fold difference in the toxic intensity. You can put it at a level where it will kill the cancer cells - the very aggressive ones - and not the normal ones."

Byrne and Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos originally studied the antioxidants and phytonutrients in plums and found them to match or exceed the blueberry which had been considered superior to other fruits in those categories.

"The following step was to choose some of these high antioxidant commercial varieties and study their anticancer properties," Cisneros-Zevallos said. "And we chose breast cancer as the target because it''s one of the cancers with highest incidence among women. So it is of big concern."

Cisneros-Zevallos, an AgriLife Research food scientist, said the team compared normal cells to two types of breast cancer, including the most aggressive type. The cells were treated with an extract from two commercial varieties, the "Rich Lady" peach and the "Black Splendor" plum.

"These extracts killed the cancer cells but not the normal cells," Cisneros-Zevallos said.

A closer look at the extracts determined that two specific phenolic acid components - chlorogenic and neochlorogenic - were responsible for killing the cancer cells while not affecting the normal cells, Cisneros-Zevallos said.

The two compounds are very common in fruits, the researchers said, but the stone fruits such as plums and peaches have especially high levels.

"So this is very, very attractive from the point of view of being an alternative to typical chemotherapy which kills normal cells along with cancerous ones," Byrne added."

Posted by: Liam-still | June 3, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

My God, I didn't even read Ben Smith's own self-masturbatory quote there about how he is a member of "the studied neutrality old MSM types". Neutrality is one thing, sticking to facts instead of being a stenographer for the squeakiest wheel in Washington (be it Palin, Cheney, or Spitzer) is quite another.

It really is quite clear that Village truly has no idea why everyone hates them.

Posted by: PaulW99 | June 3, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Politico is non-ideological? Hardly.

Politico is as reliable and safe of a drop for Rove and the Cheneys as is Fox News.

Posted by: Beeliever | June 3, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

O/T. Obama order a stop to ALL drilling in the Gulf, regardless of depth.

Well done, O-Man.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 3, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Ben Smith makes a good point, noting that The Times, in its announcement, seemed unwilling to acknowledge that Silver is liberal or progressive, only describing him as someone with a "unique perspective".

That is false.

Here is a blogger for the NYT on the NYT website stating Nate's voting record.

"Mr. Silver said on his Web site in 2008 that he was a supporter of President Obama. “I vote for Democratic candidates the majority of the time (though by no means always),” he wrote at the time."

Or do bloggers not count? Careful how you answer.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 3, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse


Interior Dept. denies it has extended drilling freeze to shallow gulf waters

Posted by: wbgonne | June 3, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse


"Even Ben's bosses at Politico, who have fully embraced a Web-based journalism model, still adhere scrupulously to the old-school "non-ideological" approach to gathering and purveying information."


I nominate Greg for snark of the year. Nothing else I've seen could get even close to this one. Great one Greg!

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | June 3, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I seem to recall, just a few months ago, Politco accepted fake internal Democratic Party documents from The Republicans, and published them, without even first checking with the DNC, to verify that the documents were legit, or even get a comment on what the fake documents purported to be saying.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 3, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

wbg, but check this out:

"Bobby Jindal Asks Obama To End Moratorium On Deepwater Drilling"

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wrote President Obama a letter on Wednesday criticizing his decision to implement a temporary moratorium of deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Arguing that his state had already suffered crippling economic consequences, the Louisiana Republican urged Obama to rethink his decision to suspend activity at 33 previously permitted deepwater drilling rigs -- including 22 "currently in operation off the Louisiana coast."

Joining Jindal in his call to lift the moratorium is Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) who accused the Obama administration of pursuing a policy that "could kill thousands of Louisiana jobs."

In his letter, Gov. Jindal said his state was facing "one of the most challenging economic periods in decades."

"The last thing we need is to enact public policies that will certainly destroy thousands of existing jobs while preventing the creation of thousands more," he added.

"I fully understand the need for strict oversight of deepwater drilling," Jindal wrote. "However, I would ask that the federal government move quickly to ensure that all deepwater drilling is in proper compliance with federal regulation and is conducted safely so that energy production and more importantly, thousands of jobs, are not in limbo."

More here:

Posted by: suekzoo1 | June 3, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Liam, that breast cancer news is amazing.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 3, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse


I think the confusion is about this White House order, which I posted about on an earlier thread.


Finally; A Step In The Right Direction. I wish they would go farther, and just halt all off shore oil extraction, until far better damage control procedures and technology, have been developed, and proven to work.

"Obama orders firms to change drill plans that mimic BP's
Shashank Bengali | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: June 03, 2010 12:17:32 PM

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration late Wednesday moved swiftly to plug a hole in its much touted six-month ban on new deepwater drilling when the Interior Department ordered oil companies to overhaul and resubmit dozens of exploration plans that had already been approved but were virtually identical to BP's and that called major spills and environmental damage "unlikely."

The action came after McClatchy informed the White House and Interior officials that it had reviewed 31 deepwater exploration and development plans approved for the Gulf under the Obama administration and found that all of them downplayed the threat of spills to marine life and fisheries.

The language scarcely varied from company to company, suggesting that the plans were pumped out like boilerplate. Of the 31 plans McClatchy reviewed, 14 were approved since the April 20 explosion on BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig,

The administration had failed to include the plans in its moratorium, and experts told McClatchy that the filings could clear the way for drilling new wells when the ban was lifted. Following inquiries by McClatchy to White House and Interior officials, the Bureau of Land Management announced late Wednesday that oil companies would need to resubmit the plans with additional safety information before they'd be allowed to drill new wells.

"Pulling back exploration plans and development plans and requiring them to be updated with new information is consistent with this cautious approach and will ensure that new safety standards and risk considerations are incorporated into those planning documents," BLM Director Bob Abbey said in a brief press release."

Posted by: Liam-still | June 3, 2010 1:00 PM "

Posted by: Liam-still | June 3, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Mike -- I believe that was added after Ben wrote that, and in any case, he was talking about the Times press release...

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 3, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

GSparks said:
"the key isn't that they're trying to *hide* his ideology, just that they're de-emphasizing it (perhaps with just cause)."

I think that's a valid claim. Nate is, as others above note, a bit of a hybrid and clearly follows a different sort of reportorial ethic than Eric Erickson.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 3, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, et alia of the newer generation of openly-ideological are being hired because they are honest-brokers and the Internet tends to reward such people. They may have bias and present some framing, but they are open about it, and they present sources and information for their readers to access and review themselves.
On the other hand, an anonymous source inside the blogsphere told me that old-school, print-journalism editors and editors-in-chief are all members of the Trilateral Commission. (To satirically highlight the weakness of the old-schoolers that is constantly exploited)

Posted by: ctown_woody | June 3, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"I believe that was added after Ben wrote that"

NYT article posted @ :

June 3, 2010, 10:44 am
The Times to Host Political Polling Site FiveThirtyEight

Ben's article posted @ :

Posted by Ben Smith 11:33 AM

Update: Stelter says it was an "unintentional omission,"

I'd say anyone into politics knows 538 and is aware of his political leanings, especially considering he started off at DKOS.

I'd say Ben Smith made a conclusion and found facts to support his conclusion.

Most of the time Ben's on the ball but this seems like a stretch to fit a narrative he's trying to shape.

Plus, ask any right leaning pundit if they think the NYT is a neutral newspaper. Or, maybe there's a Rasmussen poll we can use. I'd guess 80% of the respondents wouldn't agree NYT is neutral. So, regardless if Nate were truly a neutral player or not, it wouldn't make a lick of difference in the general public's perception.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 3, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse


I saw that disgraceful ploy by Jindal. The LA pols are so in the tank for Big Oil that they'd sacrifice their mothers if BP or Shell told them to. They CANNOT BE TRUSTED to protect their own state, nevermind the Gulf or the rest of the country. Obama must take charge of this completely.


I saw you comment but I'm still confused. The Gulf MMS spox sent an e-mail saying all offshore drilling in the Gulf was ordered halted. Interior has just denied that. Once again: WTF?

Posted by: wbgonne | June 3, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse


They probably just misspoke, unless they are trying to deliberatly mislead the public.

I would stick with what the interior dept. is saying. They would know what the President has ordered.

I still think he should shut down all off shore oil extraction, until they are fully inspected, and fitted with redundant rapid shut down relief lines.

It is very clear, that there are no such systems in place on any of the off shore rigs, and if another one blows, especially with hurricane season approaching, the entire coastline could be devastated for decades, or in the case of the marshlands, might be lost for ever.

President Obama,

"The Fierce Urgency Of Now" demands that you freeze all oil extraction, NOW!

Posted by: Liam-still | June 3, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

This is classic...

*RNC weighs in on arrest of ex-Florida party chair*

"""Sweetheart deals and personal enrichment are every bit as unacceptable as the offering of political appointments to keep Democratic candidates out of primaries."""

So the guy -- Jim Greer -- is being charged with SIX FELONY COUNTS and the RNC compares what he did to internal Dem politics???


The CNN article offers some interesting side notes about Greer's support for Steele and vice-versa:

"""On Jan. 28, 2009, two days before Steele's victory, Greer directed $15,000 from his campaign 527 account to the "Steele for Chairman" committee, according to publicly available filings with the IRS. It was one of the largest direct contributions to Steele's bid by any donor.

Two weeks later, according to the affidavit filed Wednesday by Florida prosecutors, Greer tapped that same 527 account, the "Jim Greer for Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida Committee," for seed money to help open the shell company that ultimately landed him in the hands of Florida law enforcement officials."""

You can't write this stuff...

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 3, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse


"It's possible to care about what happens in politics -- you can prefer one outcome to another -- while simultaneously doing fact-based journalism that's fair, professional, and has integrity."

You should try that out sometime.

Posted by: ScottC3 | June 3, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

The question shouldn't be one of "ideology" -- it should be whether a person's analysis holds up to scrutiny.

A person's political interests might influence the kind of subjects that the person covers, but in terms of statistical analysis, a person's professional standards are the most important measure. If a person is a cruddy statistician the person is a cruddy statistician. It really doesn't matter whether what the person's views on social issues are. The converse is also true with respect to professional ability.

Nate Silver's views on social issues aren't what makes his statistical analysis a must read. His ability to explain complex models and do complex statistical analysis is what makes him an informative read.

The line might not be as clear with reporting, but there are still some basic journalistic standards that professional journalists must adhere too.

Ideology is over-rated.

Posted by: JPRS | June 3, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Slave Sargent:
"I don't know why The Times neglected to advertise Silver's liberalism."

Probably for the same reason that the Pest didn't bruit it in banner headlines that they'd hired you away from Toilet Paper Mentalities to be their new Moonbat Meme-Master.

They're embarrassed and ashamed of your livestock herd here at the Sweat lodge, but they want teh cray-zee you bring, and they NEED the cattle's body-count.

So...the New York Slimes hires another) Liberal...this is "news"?

What, Maureen Dowd was too "teabaggy" for Pinch?

Posted by: Bilgeman | June 3, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse


Gallup's Job Creation Index hit its best level in 19 months in May. Based on 16,395 U.S. employees' self-reports of hiring (28%) and firing (21%) activity at their workplaces, the Index improved to +7 -- up steadily this year and a total of eight points since January.


Gallup's Job Creation Index for May suggests that more new jobs are being created while layoffs continue to decline across the U.S. The Index also shows that job market conditions improved further as May came to a close.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 3, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Soulless slave Liam:
"President Obama,

"The Fierce Urgency Of Now" demands that you freeze all oil extraction, NOW!"

"The Fierce Urgency of Now"?


Moonbat slave, please...

Are you high? Right now?

Posted by: Bilgeman | June 3, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

All, check this out, it's unreal

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 3, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

The extent to which Silver's ideological leanings come into play is as a footnote to factual analysis. Nate will often analyze various topics and reach certain conclusions. It is only after this factual analysis has been established that he displays his political leanings, often in the form of analyzing different options and concluding with a recommendation for Democrats on how to proceed.

In other words: his political ideology does not instruct his analysis; rather, his analysis instructs his political opinion.

Posted by: eganfoote | June 3, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

The New York Times is a NON-IDEOLOGICAL paper and they are going to START hiring liberals?? What's next? Mae West loses her virginity? Jim Thorpe decides to get into sports? The fact that the NYT thinks they have not had a liberal slant before just shows how deeply their self delusion is.

Posted by: flyingtree | June 3, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Oh, come on - what a crock.

Look, I respect the above writer's work. And I haven't read the Ben Smith piece, so won't comment on that part. But I've read enough of these self-serving grand theories from (the same small circle of) bloggers; it's gone from precious to exasperating. Advocacy journalism is not new. Neither is opinionated writing that contains some reporting.

The Times hosts a plethora of voices, blogs, etc. I like Nate Silver's work, but don't buy this as "a quiet capitulation" to some vague new paradigm any more than Freakonomics was.

In case any editors read this, for the record: *I DON'T WANT to get my news from sources who make me sift through their personal sympathies to get information.*

It's fine if a few people want to build a following that way. But it's not healthy to create communities where people reinforce eachother's worldview - in terms of politics, or in other ways (

Plus: you're likely to irritate people who aren't already groupies in the choir. And frankly, who appointed you a lucid judge of "what's right and true"? Everyone thinks their opinions are incisive and brilliant. There's a strain of narcissism in this theory that is deeply problematic.

Posted by: jes7 | June 3, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Just how a leading democracy can function with only partisan presentation and reporting of events is beyond reason. Fear that "industrializing" news services and channels are becoming realized with each new merger, downsizing, or "realignment." We can pretend that unedited, un-fact-checked publication through internet blogs and "on-line" sources can substitute for professional, ethical journalism, but the declining condition of our public discourse and governance will show otherwise. Those who claim to love and support this country and its Constitution had better wake up to what is rapidly slipping away.

Posted by: Jazzman7 | June 4, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

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