Making Annual Reports Interesting

Making Annual Reports Interesting

Perhaps one of the hardest jobs that the water works superintendent or the fire chief has to tackle is the getting up of the annual report of his department; that is to say the preparation of these reports so that they will be of lively interest to those most likely to read them, the citizens of the city or town. It is easy enough to sling a lot of statistics together and turn these out as an annual report, but how many of the citizens will read this sort of thing? The report, to be really of interest to the citizens—for after all it is the citizens that the chief or superintendent intends to interest in these reports, in spite of the fact that they are ostensibly addressed to the head of a city department, the mayor or the council—must deal with live topics that will engage the interest of the readers. Statistics are necessary and can be made interesting, but there must lie something more than these alone. In the compilation of such statistics to the interest of the public in them must be pointed out and emphasized. “With a little care and a little extra thought these reports can be made so alive with interest that every citizen in the city will not only want a copy but will read the reports from end to end. In this way the important statistics that the chief or superintendent wishes to put over will naturally come to the attention of the readers, perhaps almost in spite of themselves.

A great help in making these reports readable and interesting is the use of cuts to illustrate them. Views of the exteriors and interiors of the most handsome fire stations in the city, showing their parking; pictures of the men at drill and tests of the apparatus, etc., will be of interest. Interior and exterior views of the various buildings of the water works and the parking of watersheds and reservoirs and other parts that lend themselves for beautification will also help in the superintendent’s report. The average citizen has enough of the child in his or her composition to be interested in looking at pictures and the more of these that can be included in the report the better will it be received.

Taken all in all, the compilation of the annual report is an art in itself and one that requires considerable study on the part of the fire chief or water works superintendent.

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Making Annual Reports Interesting

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Making Annual Reports Interesting

The average annual report of a municipal department is apt to be a rather dry and uninteresting document. There is no reason at all why this should be so and if the heads of these departments would give more thought to the matter they would realize that the people to whom these reports are intended to appeal—the taxpayers— would pay more attention to them and peruse them more carefully if they were made up in a form that would make attractive reading. Occasionally, however, there are notable exceptions to the rule, and one of these is to be found in the annual report for 1922 by Chief Henry R. Yates, of the fire department of Schenectady, N. Y., to John E. Cole, commissioner of public safety of the city. At first glance this report would seem to be a mass of figures and statistics, but a little more careful reading brings out the fact that it is full of meaty information for the citizens of the city, giving them a very clear idea of what the fire department has accomplished during the past year. This is done in a compact and easily understandable form by means of tables which appeal to the eye through their conciseness and are particularly interesting from the practical standpoint of the chief of the fire department. One of the best of these, reproduced on page 181 gives the costs of the maintenance of the motor fire apparatus of the department for the year, including new parts for repairs, replacement of parts, painting and the installing of new and replaced equipment, besides the general cost of the purchase or repair of any equipment that was added from time to time to the department within the year.

This table should provide suggestions to other chiefs in formulating their annual reports, owing to the completeness and conciseness of its form.