NYT's Jill Abramson: We Want More Nate Silver

Blodget Asks Whether New CEO Gets Hisses in the Building

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Can the New York Times still afford economist-turned-blogger Nate Silver in the wake of his election projection success?

Nate Silver
Nate Silver Credit: CNN

As long as it's up to Jill Abramson, the paper's top editor, the answer is a resounding "yes."

In a wide-ranging chat with Henry Blodget at Business Insider's Ignition conference today, Ms. Abramson said she wants Mr. Silver to "continue to be a part of the New York Times family." After his book tour, moreover, she plans to discuss with him how The Times can get him involved in different types of data-driven reporting.

Ms. Abramson said she wants to "talk to him about ways to expand that kind of reporting," noting that he got his start writing about sports. (Mr. Silver has written quite a bit for Baseball Prospectus.)

At one point during election week, one in every five visits to The Times website included a visit to Mr. Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog.

Mr. Blodget also peppered Ms. Abramson with questions about the BBC scandal that has ensnared new Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson, who was director general at the BBC when one of its news shows pulled an investigation into sexual-abuse allegations against former BBC personality Jimmy Savile. Times columnist Joe Nocera suggested last month that Mr. Thompson appeared "willfully ignorant" in the Savile matter. Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan wrote that it was "worth considering now whether he is the right person for the job."

Jill Abramson
Jill Abramson

"What happens when you see Mark Thompson in the building?" Mr. Blodget said. "Do people hiss at him and stuff?"

Ms. Abramson scoffed at that suggestion, pointing out that the Times staffers who have written skeptically about Mr. Thompson are columnists, not members of the newsroom that reports to her.

That said, Ms. Abramson commended the reporting that a team of Times reporters has done on the scandal and what role Mr. Thompson may have played in it.

On the topic of the newspaper's transition to digital, Ms. Abramson said 300 to 350 of the paper's 1,200 employees are "mostly digitally focused." That number doesn't seem to include the vast majority of reporters who are writing for both print and digital, the former of which Ms. Abramson expects there to still be a "robust appetite" for "for the foreseeable future."

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