Thursday, June 05, 2008

Budget story woes

I'm writing a city budget story and I'm overwhelmed. I have no idea how to approach it. And really, I've not begun to seriously attack it yet.

But while procrastinating I found this page, published in 1998.

"Dave Herzog: Twenty tips for covering and writing about budgets"

Hopefully the tips will help. I'm kinda embarassed to ask my editor, just yet.

Anyone else got any tips or site with tips about writing city budget stories?

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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 5:45 PM | link

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Don't be afraid to ask questions. When I get my budget -- and I've been covering muni goverment since I graduated -- I always make an appointment to talk to the finance director and I ask him all of the stupid questions I need the answers too. I make him explain things over to me -- then I repeat them to make sure I have them right.

But on writing the story, in case you haven't had the chance to sit down and talk to your finance director yet, here's what I suggest:
- search the clips from the last few months and find out what the major issues are. is the town pension plan underfunded? Crime up? What have they been talking about? Then, look at how those items are funded in the coming budget. Talk about what effect that might have on said issue -- whether it will worsen or lessen it.
-- talk to the politicians. The town council has an agenda, don't forget that. but they also know that budget in and out. Talk to them about the things that stand out in their minds that are important in the budget. Compare those things with the items you found from the above tip.
-- Always go for the schools. Education funding is a big part of municipality's budget and it's always a source of contention. Find out how much of an increase this year is over last year and talk about why. Is the district getting less state funding? Costs going up? More special education tuitions? Basically, explain why the costs are going up or down.
-- Same goes for the budget in general. I bet they've allotted a lot more money in this budget for utilities since we just topped $4 a gallon for gas here, I know ya'll are feeling it over there. Talk about the factors that they don't have control over and how that is affecting the budget. Also talk about where they are cutting back to compensate for more spending in those areas.

Hope that helps. :-) Have fun!

Posted by Blogger T Dot @ 2:25 PM, June 06, 2008 #
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