On a Monday night in September, 2,000 people gathered at a theater off Times Square to watch five political journalists sit on a stage and talk about polls. The occasion was a live taping of the FiveThiryEight Elections Podcast, an almost unimaginably nerdy event for which attendees paid up to $100 per ticket. As members of the crowd sipped IPAs and cheered each jab at Donald Trump, the panel bantered over recent developments in the presidential race and issued predictions for the coming weeks.
With its reliance on polling data over source cultivation and number crunching over narrative, FiveThirtyEight, a website focused on statistical analysis of politics, economics, culture, and sports, is at the forefront of a shift in the way political journalism is practiced. At the live event, that change was perhaps best embodied in the youngest journalist on the panel, senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten.