The Silver Standard

by Jeremy Loudenback

Here at Bedrosian Center headquarters, hearts and calculators are aflutter with the news that Nate Silver is paying the U.S.C. campus a visit on Friday as part of the Holt Distinguished Lecture series. Silver is the statistics wunderkind whose uncannily accurate political predictions as a New York Times blogger earned him widespread popularity and created a new awareness about opportunities for analytics in popular culture.

Nate Silver Crystal BallAn unabashed sports and stats geek, Silver has created a unique blend of journalism and statistical analysis through his website, FiveThirtyEight.com, which is slated to move to ESPN later this year. Silver first shot to national attention by correctly predicting the outcome of the 2008 presidential election in 49 out of 50 states, along with all 35 U.S. Senate races. At the New York Times, his FiveThirtyEight blog used statistics to analyze political polling, yielding grudging respect from veteran politicos and the general public. In the end, he correctly called the outcome of the 2012 presidential race for all 50 states. In doing so, he raised debate about the roles of many mainstream journalists and political commentators, who may be too dependent on public perceptions, gossip, and personal bias in formulating political analysis.

With appearances at the TED and SXSW conferences, Silver is perhaps as close as anyone in the field of analytics gets to rock-star status. He also authored the 2012 New York Times bestseller The Signal and The Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t.

Before he became a popular name in the political world, Silver was a celebrated analyst of baseball statistics, developing a statistical tool still in wide use in Major League Baseball. On Friday, he will connect the dots between a couple of his passions in a lecture entitled “Baseball and Politics are Data Driven.”

The talk is part of the Dennis F. and Brooks Holt Distinguished Lecture Series, which was established by longtime Price School board of councilors member Dennis Holt (founding chairman and CEO of U.S. International Media) and his wife, Brooks. Working in concert with the Bedrosian Center, the Holt Lecture Series invites prominent practitioners, influential policy makers, and visiting scholars to discuss issues, curricula, and research regarding communication and public policy.

To get (free) tickets for the Silver lecture, visit the event page. In celebration of Nate Silver and data-driven analysis, we’ll also be taking a look at the way big data is making an impact on governance thisweek. Stay tuned to the Bedrosian Center website for more updates.