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Nate Silver swept up in layoffs at Walt Disney Company

Statistician Nate Silver appears at an event in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Newton, Creative Commons)
Statistician Nate Silver appears at an event in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Newton, Creative Commons)

Data journalist Nate Silver is among the hundreds of workers who will depart the Walt Disney Company amid sweeping layoffs that are tied to a broad cost-reduction strategy.

This week, Silver took to Twitter to say the layoffs had effectively gutted his division, called FiveThirtyEight, which was acquired by Disney subsidiary ESPN in July 2013.

On Monday, ESPN began issuing pink slips to some of its workers, the second of three waves of job cuts that were first announced by returned Disney CEO Bob Iger in February.

“As we advance as a core segment of Disney, with operational control and financial responsibility, we must further identify ways to be efficient and nimble,” Jimmy Pitaro, the president of ESPN, wrote in a memo to workers. “We will continue to focus our workforce on initiatives that are most closely aligned with our critical priorities and emphasize decision-making and responsibility deeper into the organization.”

Silver rose to prominence in 2008 after he used various data to correctly predict that then-Senator Barack Obama would win that year’s presidential election. ESPN was drawn to Silver’s unique brand of data analysis, hoping to integrate his style of reporting into its sports journalism products.

Bringing Silver on board also allowed ABC News to tap into FiveThirtyEight, the website and newsroom Silver founded more than a decade ago after he made a name for himself through his mostly-accurate predictions.

This week, a spokesperson for ABC News affirmed the company would continue to operate FiveThirtyEight, despite laying off certain managers and workers who were in charge of the website. The brand will be integrated into ABC News’ political coverage ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

On Monday, Silver affirmed that layoffs at Disney had “substantially impacted FiveThirtyEight,” and made a new prediction: That his contract was probably not going to be renewed.

“I had been worried about an outcome like this and so have had some great initial conversations about opportunities elsewhere,” Silver said, without revealing where those conversations were taking place.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).