ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight, the newly expanded online publication led by Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver, launches today.
In addition to a new team of notable journalists and data-visualization experts, the new site will maintain the entrepreneurial spirit of the original which Silver founded in 2008, while extending its coverage to areas such as sports, politics, economics, science and life.
Front Row spoke with Mike Wilson, managing editor of the FiveThirtyEight, about his experience building a brand new editorial team and what to expect from the new site.
How different is it to manage a new model of online publication compared to your previous experience managing and writing for traditional print newspapers?
The biggest difference is that at FiveThirtyEight we use data as the foundation of everything we do, whereas in newspapers we relied more on reporting in the field. Another big difference is that I no longer think about how much newsprint we’re using or what the front page will look like.
Nate Silver became well-known for his political coverage, and ESPN is well-known for its sports coverage. So how will the new FiveThirtyEight build a bridge between the two?
We’ll build the bridge out of numbers. Politics and sports and our other areas of focus – science, economics and lifestyle – are data-rich areas. Just about everything in our lives today can be measured. We’ll use data to tell stories about the world.
Will the new FiveThirtyEight feature the same amount of political coverage as before?
Politics will always be a huge story for us, particularly in election years.
What are some of the stories we should expect to see in the next coming weeks?
Some snapshots for you: At this point in the race, Hillary Clinton has a better chance of becoming president than anyone in history. . . This winter wasn’t the worst by any single measure, but it was awful by a whole bunch of measures. . . “Romeo and Juliet” has a misleading title. . . Millions have left the workforce and may never come back. . . Baseball managers generally don’t make much difference in their teams’ performance.
You spent most of your career working for established and traditional publications. That said, what were some of the challenges of building a new editorial team from the ground up?
The hardest part was the need to build the team quickly without sacrificing quality. We think we’ve done a good job. I believe our audience will think so too.
There has been some criticism that the new FiveThirtyEight lacks diversity. How would you respond to that?
I understand the criticism. We’ve been hiring technologists and data experts, and those career paths still skew strongly male in our society. That said, I wish the critics had noted that two of our senior leaders are women and that our unit of the company is led by a woman, Senior Vice President, Global Strategy, Business Development & Business Affairs Marie Donoghue.
Now, a bit of what you may have missed over the weekend:
1. #Bracketology marked the end of Championship Week and the start of the Madness.
Nothing better than doing huge game with Brent Musburger. When he said, "You are looking live at the Sprint Center…," I got chills!
— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) March 16, 2014
@franfraschilla nice job on that last Iowa state play call. Like you were in the huddle
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) March 14, 2014
— Codylox (@codylox) March 14, 2014
— Sports Biz Radio (@SBRadio) March 17, 2014
2. Don’t forget to fill out your bracket(s).
— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) March 17, 2014
As of 930ET, already 851K Tourney Challenge brackets submitted. Most popular champs: UF (29.4%), MSU (10.6), UL (8.1), WSU (7.0), Zona (6.8)
— Brett Edgerton (@EditorEdge) March 17, 2014
30 for 30 about the Big East was AWESOME!!! I grew up w/ Big Monday on ESPN! I dressed like Pat Ewing in Little League! #TShirtAndKneePads
— The Original T-Mac (@CoachTMcGaughey) March 17, 2014
— marlon wayans (@MarlonWayans) March 16, 2014
— Sarah Reinertsen (@AlwaysTri) March 14, 2014
— Wyoming Cowboy WR (@WyoWrestle) March 14, 2014
Really enjoy listening to @darren_cahill when he commentates on ESPN. He has a lot of knowledge about the game of tennis.
— Thomas Johansson (@tompatennis) March 16, 2014
Sheldon Spencer contributed to this post