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Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight Relaunches As Data Journalism Website 60

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the everyone-likes-data dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "After a parting of ways with the New York Times after calling 50 out of 50 states right in the 2012 elections, Nate Silver has relaunched FiveThirtyEight as a website dedicated to data journalism under the auspices of ESPN. Silver has expanded his staff from two full-time journalists to 20 and instead of focusing on politics exclusively FiveThirtyEight's coverage will span five major subject areas — politics, economics, science, life and sports. According to Silver, his team has a broad set of skills and experience in methods that fall under the rubric of data journalism including statistical analysis, data visualization, computer programming and data-literate reporting. 'One of our roles will be to critique incautious uses of statistics when they arise elsewhere in news coverage. At other times, we'll explore ways that consumers can use data to their advantage and level the playing field against corporations and governments.' The site has launched with a variety of stories including 'Many Signs Pointed to Crimea Independence Vote — But Polls Didn't,' 'Building a Bracket Is Hard This Year, But We'll Help You Play the Odds,' 'Toilet Seat Covers: To Use or Not to Use,' and 'Three Rules to Make Sure Economic Data Aren't Bunk.'

The story that caught my eye was 'This Winter Wasn't the Coldest, But It Was One of the Most Miserable' with some good data visualization that showed that although average temperature may not have set records in the Northeast Corridor this winter, the intensity of the cold when it did hit was impressive. According to Matt Lanza although most statistics cite the winter of 1978-79 as the coldest in U.S. history, the winter of 2013-14 brought a rare combination of miseries that many of us hadn't seen in years, and some had never seen. It was colder than usual, it was extremely cold more often than usual, and it snowed more than usual in more places than usual. Traditionally, big snow winters occur in a couple regions. The East Coast might have great snows, while the Midwest is quiet. Snowfall this winter didn't discriminate; it blanketed just about everybody (outside the dry West and icier Mid-South). Look how many cities had not just a little more, but way more, than their normal snowfall."
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Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight Relaunches As Data Journalism Website

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  • Re:Not exactly 50/50 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @08:29AM (#46514841)

    I don't think it's nitpicking to point out that he actually called 49/49 states right. He had Florida as a toss-up, with a statistically insignificant lean towards Obama. This is an important distinction as it's one that constantly burns statisticians - that element of randomness is always there and eventually he's going to be wrong about something important, especially when people read a minuscule lean in one direction as a prediction. People are going to use that as a opportunity to dismiss him, since there's a political motivation there to do so, just as they dismissed him prior to the last election.

    The cool thing about statistics is that they actually tell you the strength of your prediction, and my impression has been that 538 is very careful to include "we really can't tell, but maybe there's a little lean to the right." If some journalist translates that as "It's going right," and makes a big fuss over the actual result being left, then it will be the journalist who looks like a moronic wacko, not 538.

    That said, there do seem to be a lot of journalists who make a career of looking like moronic wackos, so maybe that's one of those win-win situations.

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

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