Changing the news with Statistics - sports, economics, and politics

One of the fun things I’ve learned over the past years is how journalism and media news works in the technology area.  Working on publishing technologies at Apple and Microsoft I used to focus on low level things like printers, postscript language, fonts (a lot), graphics, color systems, and spoke at conferences back when print publishing was big.  Now, with this blog, working with the GigaOm folks, and a variety of other companies I’ve had an interesting view of how the news becomes the news.

The basis of the news are many times the facts, and many times those facts are in statistics.  I ran across this post on eight cool things journalists should know about statistics.

Nate Silver: Eight cool things journalists should know about statistics

Journalists need to bring science and forecasting into their news coverage, despite the fact that predicting outcomes is viewed as “uncouth” in some newsrooms, statistician Nate Silver told a gathering at the Online News Association conference Friday.








My favorite are the last two.

7. Insiderism is the enemy of objectivity. Insider information may not be reliable. A journalist whose circle is too tight may forget there is more outside of it. Silver cited forecasts made on the McLaughlin Group that he called as accurate as “monkeys throwing poop at a dartboard.”

8. Making predictions improves accountability. Silver called on journalists to be more empirical in their coverage. But he also said if journalists state what will happen in the future, they need to think such predictions through and not treat forecasting as a game.

Nate Silver who is the source of the above ideas has started an effort to change sports, economics and politics journalism.

Seeking Lead Writers in Sports, Politics and Economics

FiveThirtyEight is conducting a search for lead writers in three of our most important content verticals: sports, politics and economics. 
These are high-profile, full-time positions for people with an outstanding combination of writing and statistical skills. They will principally involve: (i) writing 2-3 feature-length articles per week (typically between 500 words and a few thousand words) and (ii) contributing to long-term FiveThirtyEight projects  that is, assisting in the build-out of our data-driven models and interactive features.
The three principal qualifications for these lead writing positions are as follows:
·         First, candidates must be able to write clearly about complex ideas. Strong prose style and composition represents a major part of the skill set. But we also seek candidates who can display a clear sense of editorial judgment: how to select story ideas, and how to present data-driven content in a way that can be approachable for a smart (but non-specialist) audience.  We strongly prefer candidates who have a demonstrated track record of writing for the broader public.
This may seem hard for a writer, but imagine you have the backing of a data visualization staff.  check out this post.
Visual Journalist 

We are looking for one or more Visual Journalists to design and develop graphics, interactive features and web applications for the site. The Visual Journalists will work on a small team in the FiveThirtyEight newsroom in New York City, using information design and web development to help readers explore and understand the data behind the news.
Computational Journalist

FiveThirtyEight is also looking for one or more Computational Journalists to join our data visualization team. Our Computational Journalists will create interactive features, models, and systems that collect, process and present real-time data and predictions about sports, politics, economics, science and lifestyle topics.