To those with their ears attuned to fissures in the media world related to data journalism, the use of the word “data” was pointed. That, plainly, was what Silver responded to. The site’s election podcasts generally feature Silver and several other of the site’s election team discussing the race, with particular attention paid to polls.
It’s probably fair to say that the Timesman’s contrast of FiveThirtyEight methodology and traditional reporting was somewhat cartoonish. The site publishes reams of analysis of polling data in a fairly nuanced way. For example, for races it publishes two columns of data, for the “polls-only forecast” and the “polls-plus forecast.” The latter includes factors like endorsements.
And as for “shoe-leather” reporting, Rutenberg’s take on “actual humans” was highly romanticized. You can spend all day talking to folks in Austin, Texas, and still be surprised when the Texas voting results come out.