Monday, September 03, 2007

Fantastic resource on reporting budgets

If municipal budgets befuddle you. If you find figuring it all out to be taxing, then then the Institute for Democracy in South Africa has a tremendous resource for you -- a three-part "toolkit" on dissecting and covering municipal budgets.

I came across it while looking for some supplementary material for my public affairs reporting class. It is as good -- better actually -- than most of what I've seen in textbooks.

Sure, there are some references to specific South African laws and policies to read around (but if you think about it, you'll find similar things in some places in the U.S.), and it wouldn't hurt any of us to acknowledge that the things we deal with here are shared by our brethren in many other places.

Each of the parts, which is on Idasa's "Word on the Street" site is a short (three- to eight-page) PDF file.

  • Part 1 -- A good overview of budgeting and the terms and concepts involved.
  • Part 2 -- How to analyze a budget and the questions to ask.
  • Part 3 -- How to do your "sums" when analyzing a budget -- in other words, what the numbers mean and how to prevent making some mistakes in interpreting them.
The same site also has a nice handout on reporting public opinion surveys.

This is primo stuff that ought to be in the computer of every reporter and editor who has to handle these stories and of every professor, instructor and lecturer who teaches it.



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