Letter about letters

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Will Swaim authored a piece for Reason claiming that Jonathan Motl, Montana's commissioner of political practices, is "wildly partisan." Dan Brooks criticized Swaim's piece in a Feb. 4 column titled "Job well done." So in a Feb. 11 letter to the editor (see "Killer COPP"), Swaim criticizes Brooks for supposedly claiming that Swaim is "not really a journalist."

Frankly, over a long time of reading Dan Brooks, I really appreciate his political commentary. I find it worthy, and his satire is tasty icing on a pleasing cake.

Swaim's LTE, on the other hand, mostly rehashed as proof that Motl is "wildly partisan" only that Motl's "chosen to litigate only 12 cases, all involving Republican(s)." Swaim finds this determinative a "hell of a correlation."

However, even Swaim himself undercuts his "hell of a correlation" immediately, since defendants usually fight baseless charges, and Swaim says that seven of Motl's cases settled without trial. And informed readers know that correlation is not causation, making Swaim's heady assertion of correlation a questionable journalistic judgment on his part.

But it's omission that most damages Swaim's credibility, for his LTE offered no actual research into Motl's complaints. Did Swaim read even one of Motl's complaints to find unfairness, much less all 12? There's simply no indication in his letter that Swaim went beyond the number. Whereas last week's other letter to the editor, (see "Desperate move") offered considerable information that supports Motl.

William H. Clarke

Missoula

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