Nate Silver uses Twitter to call out the Huffington Post

by Jillian Selzer

FiveThirtyEight Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver made headlines yesterday when he retaliated via Twitter against Huffington Post reporter Ryan Grim after Grim wrote a piece criticizing Silver’s work with the election polls.

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(Image courtesy of Nate Silver on Twitter)

Grim made the accusation that Silver has been unskewing the polls in favor of Donald Trump and, in turn, is “panicking the entire world.” The article goes on to explain how Silver aligns the polls to where he thinks they should be and “may end up being right, but he’s just guessing.” In this election’s political climate and with just a mere 48 hours until the results, the accusation seems especially petty and could have a huge impact on readers. Silver responded (in his opinion) accordingly.

In typical news fashion, it’s customary to post/print a retraction when in the wrong or to publish a rebuttal piece challenging the views of another reporter or paper. However, Silver’s method of choice was to blast both the Huffington Post on one of the world’s largest social networks. It’s not uncommon for people of interest to go full blast with their tweets (honestly, just look at Donald Trump’s entire timeline), but where is the significance in Silver taking to Twitter to get his message across?

As we’ve learned in class, Twitter’s reach is virtually unlimited. As long as Silver’s profile is public, the world can see what he posts. Now cater that to just about everyone that keeps up with polling and major media outlets like FiveThirtyEight and the Huffington Post, and tweeting your rebuttal is a surefire way to get noticed. While Silver’s 14-tweet rant definitely could have been presented more fluidly in a formal article or press release, the instant connection to the public as well as the access Twitter provides makes this a perfect outlet for him. It’s obvious that he is angry about Grim’s accusation, but in his following tweets he explains his reasoning and why he believes the article is irresponsible. In the hours it probably took Grim to research, write, edit and publish the article, Silver was able to instantly fire back and support his claim to an audience of almost two million followers. While I’m not a huge fan of the language he used in his tweets, it goes to show effective a tool Twitter is in the dissemination of information, whether it’s accurate or used to correct false information.

Photo via Flickr courtesy of Randy Stewart

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UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism