A unit of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (or NICAR) manages a database library that includes data on federal spending and federal contacts, but does not specify which projects are funded by the stimulus. NICAR provides access to cleaned data from the Census Bureau’s Federal Assistance Awards Data Set (FAADS), which contains information on federal grants, as well as the Federal Procurement Data Set (FPDS), administered by the General Service Administration, which has extensive information on federal contracts. These two data sets include all federal spending related to the stimulus, as well as other federal spending. While comprehensive, FAADS has a long lag time for reporting and its data can be months old. FPDS is updated quarterly. Given the lag time on the FAADS, the fact that neither FAADS nor FPDS identify stimulus projects, and the government’s plans to improve federal spending reporting through Recovery.gov, these datasets may not be useful to reporters wishing to cover the stimulus per say, but are helpful in covering government spending generally. NICAR makes both sets of data available to journalists for a fee, and offers help managing it.

The Tax Policy Center’s’s Report Card explains and rates the tax breaks included in the stimulus. The Report Card has an explanation of current law and the stimulus changes, a discussion of the tax break’s impact, and a subjective grade for each tax proposal included in the stimulus, which will amount to over $200 billion in funding over the life of the program.

The TPC provides detailed commentary on the stimulus tax provision, but doesn’t include information that would allow journalists to localize stimulus tax coverage. Reporters can use the TPC to learn about the tax issues, but will have to use other methods to report on local issues relating to the tax changes.

Blogs:

And then there are the blogs. We’ve sifted through the angry, guerrilla ex-banker musings (as well as some less angry ones) and picked our favorites.

A Goldman veteran who goes by Yves Smith comments on economic and finance news at Naked Capitalism, with super-long posts critiquing coverage. Bonus: mixed into the stinging commentary are animal pics as “antidotes du jour.”

Barry Ritholtz launched finance blog The Big Picture in 2003, back when Word Press was barely beta. (Remember those days?) The site as it is today features regular posts, mostly by Ritholtz, Peter Boockvar’s “Macro Notes” (or commentary on the day’s news releases), and links to relevant videos and his (well-received) book, Bailout Nation. As a day job, Ritholtz runs an online quantitative research firm; he’s also a TV/radio frequent commentator on economic data and financial markets.

Paul Kedrosky, tech entrepreneur and strategist, muses on technology, finance, venture capital and money culture at Infectious Greed. Kedrosky cuts through general money world and blogosphere clutter for a well-curated read, providing Infectious Greed visitors with lists of “Readings” and “Weekend Reading” (links to top stories so you don’t have to find them yourself), alongside provocative blog posts. Or even better, sometimes he gets “other smart people” to go to “interesting-looking conferences” and report back—in abbreviated, easy to digest form—as he does with the Economist’s Buttonwood Conference here here. Also, he loves graphs and visual maps.

Lauded as a top economics blog by The Wall Street Journal, CNN and others,
Angry Bear is run by several Ph.D economists, who provide individual takes on topics ranging from world trade to government regulation. The contributors come from different backgrounds—one’s an ex-biologist, for example, another is a law professor—which results in a healthy range of prospectives and posts.

Calculated Risk covers finance and economics and is run by Bill McBride (co-blogged from 2006 to 2008 by the late Tanta, aka Doris Dungey, an 20-year veteran of mortgage banking). Recognized as “indispensable” and “prescient,” Calculated Risk was one of the first to write about the U.S. housing bubble and it remains a top-visited econ site by traffic.

The recent, shadowy subject of a long New York profile, financial blog Zero Hedge has made a name for itself by posting reports (news to some, conspiracy theories to others) that sometimes seem wildly out there—until they sometimes prove true. (See: potential abuses of high-frequency trading at Goldman Sachs.) Zero Hedge is run by an ex-broker, Dan Ivandjiiski, under the blogonym “Tyler Durden”—the narrator’s alter ego in the novel “Fight Club,” played by Brad Pitt in David Fincher’s cultishly followed film adaptation. (The name Zero Hedge comes from a “Fight Club” quote: “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”) It’s aggressive in its reporting and theorizing, and decidedly anti-establishment—reasons why it’s a blog to keep an eye on.

Jaimie Dougherty is a graduate student at Columbia's School for International and Public Affairs.