“The Upshot.” That’s the name the New York Times is giving to its new data-driven venture, focused on politics, policy and economic analysis and designed to fill the void left by Nate Silver, the one-man traffic machine whose statistical approach to political reporting was a massive success.
David Leonhardt, the Times’ former Washington bureau chief, who is in charge of The Upshot, told Quartz that the new venture will have a dedicated staff of 15, including three full-time graphic journalists, and is on track for a launch this spring. “The idea behind the name is, we are trying to help readers get to the essence of issues and understand them in a contextual and conversational way,” Leonhardt says. “Obviously, we will be using data a lot to do that, not because data is some secret code, but because it’s a particularly effective way, when used in moderate doses, of explaining reality to people.”
Data-driven reporting and analysis is growing at a rapid pace (and we at Quartz are no exception). At its peak during the 2012 presidential election campaign, FiveThirtyEight drew as much as 20% of the visits to nytimes.com, the New Republic reported. Silver is relaunching FiveThirtyEight for ESPN this month, and last weekend, the Washington Post’s former Wonkblog editor Ezra Klein unveiled the name and design for his highly anticipated venture, Vox.com, which is backed by Vox Media, the company behind The Verge and the SB Nation network of sports blogs.
“I have lot of admiration for both Ezra and Nate,” Leonhardt tells Quartz. “There are certain similarities in all of these ventures, but there are also differences. I think the audience for this journalism is large, growing and underserved. I think we are going to see multiple ventures in this area succeed… because they will foster demand for this type of writing.”
The New York Times’ own public editor admitted that Silver, a onetime baseball stats geek, never really fit into the paper’s culture, and that “a number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work.” But Leonhardt says being part of the Times is an “enormous advantage” for The Upshot. “The Times is in an extremely strong position digitally. We are going to be very much a Times product. Having said that, we are not going to do stuff the same way the Times does.” The tone, he said, will be more like having “a journalist sitting next to you, or sending you an email.”
Leonhardt expects some of the Times’ high-profile reporters such as Binyamin Appelbaum and Annie Lowrey to frequently contribute to The Upshot, which will also have a dedicated presence in the Times’ print editions each week.
It will bring together staff behind some of the Times’ most innovative recent work including the “4th Down Bot” NFL game-data analyzer, the rent-versus-buy calculator, and last year’s super-popular dialect quiz. But The Upshot won’t be all about math, Leonhardt says.
“I love numbers; I was a math major in college,” he says. “[But] my instinct is often stories have too many numbers, rather than too few.”
Update 3/10, 1:31 PM ET: