Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why


Being a Chronicler in the Society [1]

Chroniclers: 1) not all groups have to have chroniclers. Shires may if they wish. Baronies need to have them. 2) There's a difference between a chronicler and a newsletter. A group might have a chronicler and no newsletter, and the chronicler might keep the group's history (in a book, on sheets of paper, on diskette, whatever seems best) [2], and see that information concerning the local group gets to the principality and kingdom newsletters. Be a reporter. If the group does have a newsletter, the person responsible for its production is the chronicler.

Reporting: If you get money from subscriptions or from your local group's treasury, you need to keep good records of how much is spent, and turn receipts in to the treasurer of your group. You don't have to report to your superior how much you're spending each month. Reports should go to the local seneschal and the treasurer of your group. The report should include the number of copies printed with a summary of how many were extra, free, paid, or whatever. You might want to save some trouble and share some information by making this report a part of the newsletter, either monthly or quarterly. If the seneschal and treasurer get copies of the newsletter, you've done your report painlessly.

Finances: If you take in any subscriptions, the money has to be run through the group's treasury, so that there's a record at the end of the year for SCA tax reports and so that checks to the SCA branch are put through an SCA account. If all subscriptions are free and if you also pay for all stamps yourself, and the shire doesn't provide any funding at all, then (and only then) can you throw all receipts in the trash and decline to report your finances. The days of free newsletters are just about over, although in a few small groups the newsletter is still wholly donated by a single member.

Disclaimer: Since 1975 the Society has required that a disclaimer appear in each issue of publications put out by local SCA groups. The current form is:

"This is the (Name of Publication), a publication of the (Name of branch or other organization) of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. (Name of publication) is available from (name and address of publisher). It is not a corporate publication of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc, and does not delineate SCA policies." [3]

This has posed a paradox to those who are not philosophers, but I can explain [4]: The term "official publication" is no longer used, because it drove people crazy. Now we say "corporate publications" (meaning Tournaments Illuminated, kingdom newsletters, Compleat Anachronist-other things paid for directly with corporate funds and which are subscribed to or purchased only through the corporation) and "local publications" for local newsletters, guild newsletters, arts newsletters, etc. When policies are outlined in Corpora concerning "corporate publications" those aren't intended to apply to every newsletter, only kingdom newsletters (or other corporate publications). Another advantage of having the disclaimer is that the content doesn't have to be reviewed by the corporation before it's published. (With some other organizations corporate approval is required, the result being it's impossible to disseminate current information quickly to members or officers.)

If an official (or even incipient) branch of the SCA wants to publish a newsletter for its members and interested others, they are making this decision as a group of members of the corporation. The newsletter will represent a chapter of a non-profit organization, and the chapter has, by applying to be a part of the corporation, agreed to follow the rules of the club.

Pointers and Reminders: Use polite language. Even though your local members may not be offended by certain words, the parents of potential members may be, and there's no sense (nor any honor or chivalry) in using nasty or crude words in print. Try not to offend people. If a cartoon or joke is directed at someone and might actually cause offense, ask the author/artist to pass it around privately. As chronicler, you should use your own discretion in deciding what to print, which brings me to ...

Accountability: Part of the reason for the corporate chronicler's asking that the office of chronicler be more tightly organized and that officers be warranted is so that people who are publishing newsletters on behalf of branches of the Society are more clearly accountable to someone. In the past there have been a few cases of chroniclers saying, in effect, "You can't tell me what to do because this is an unofficial newsletter." It may not be an official corporate level newsletter, but if you've received money from people who've been led to believe you're putting out a newsletter in the name of a shire or barony, and if the officers of the shire or barony are providing you with information to print for the group's benefit, you do have a responsibility to the branch, and to the next level up (as other officers do). If you publish things which are rude, untrue, offensive, or otherwise give the group a bad name, the members of the group or your superior officer should be able to ask you to do better, and ultimately to ask that you resign or be replaced, just as with any other SCA officer. This is one reason for warranting officers.

Proper Acknowledgement: Another reason for warrants is to acknowledge that a person is officially an officer of the group, and to protect his or her rights as an officer. It also prevents local officers or groups from arbitrarily saying "You can't do the newsletter anymore; we're tired of looking at you." If they have complaints about the chronicler's performance, they'll have to take it up with the officer and his superiors, just as with any other office.

Format: Some people have asked me about newsletter format. There are no real requirements, but there's a format which is traditional in this kingdom, which is basically that the officers are inside the front cover and the calendar (if one is included) on the page following that. If you want to do otherwise that's fine too. [5]

Content: Each issue should have the disclaimer, the address with mundane name of the chronicler (if the chronicler's address is used for subscriptions or receiving articles or trades), a list of officers with addresses (list zip codes) and phone numbers (put the area code on somewhere). List the times (and locations) of local meetings (fighter practices, guild meetings, revels) and names and numbers of contact people. That's all that's really necessary. You might want to put in arts and sciences articles, information on neighboring groups' events, articles on the history of your group or the geography of the kingdom or other interesting SCA-related articles.

Distribution: Please send your newsletter to as many of the following as you can possibly afford to: Kingdom Chronicler, Seneschal, King and Queen [6], and SCA Archives. The current archivist of the Society should be listed on the inside front page of Tournaments Illuminated. In addition, baronies are asked to send copies to the Corporate Office and the Steward of the Society, as newcomers to the SCA frequently write asking for information, and baronial newsletters are often excellent things to send out. It costs a branch probably between ten and fifty dollars a year to furnish those extra copies, but it's worth it in terms of having your group's name and picture in the public eye, as it were-of having your people's names become familiar to officials at principality and kingdom level (and higher), and of having people see what good work and clever events come out of your area. Having been kingdom seneschal for a long time I know definitely that a group with a sharp and available newsletter is more likely to get kingdom and principality events scheduled there, and their people's names are more likely to be recognized when recognition is given (awards, offices, responsibilities-whatever). A group without a newsletter is an invisible group unless that group regularly gets announcements into larger newsletters.

Getting Along Without A Newsletter: If you're in a barony, don't read this part-you aren't supposed to get along without one. If you don't need one, you're probably not really big enough to be a barony. Shires, keep reading. If your group is smaller than ten people, you can do without a newsletter pretty well, and still fulfill the fancy goals set above if you 1) send event announcements to your nearest neighbors' newsletters, 2) send [short] chronicles of past events in your area to the principality or kingdom newsletter, and 3) if you make sure event announcements which are clear and interesting, with maps and good phone numbers, get into the principality and kingdom newsletters. Make sure the members in your area are getting the newsletter you're working with and put your announcements in there. A barony nearby probably wouldn't mind putting a page of your local announcements in if you could get several of your local people to subscribe. If all your people get the kingdom newsletter, maybe you can have a space in there for your announcements (or in the principality newsletter, if applicable). Phone trees are sufficient only if you don't care if your group gets larger, whether the neighbors visit, or whether the royalty ever learns your group's name. [7]

A Waste of A Local Newsletter: There is a peeve I share with many other people, and that is local newsletters which consist of nothing more than pages stolen from the kingdom newsletter. If you've been doing this, I recommend that you stop it for several reasons.

  • I've read more than once in kingdom newsletters outside the Outlands reminders that stealing their articles violates copyright, and using the calligraphy or art of people who've donated it to the kingdom newsletter (and not to every local newsletter) is violating two copyrights. [8]
  • Information on events in the Society is exactly the thing people become members to receive. Only SCA members are supposed to receive publicity of our events-they're not open to the general public, only to members, guests, and prospective members. Events all over the kingdom are none of the business of people who only subscribe to a local newsletter and don't become members, so you're giving away some of the privileges of membership (or even worse, selling them) to non-members. The effect is that you discourage people from becoming members. If they can get it for $6, why pay $20?
  • It costs money to print and mail, and the people who are serious about the Society are getting the kingdom newsletter already. They don't really need two copies of everything in there.

You don't have to agree with all those reasons. If you don't, at least out of respect for the first one (which isn't mine) re-type the information, paraphrase it, localize it, make it more interesting or more useful. A reduced copy of the already-month-old stuff that comes in a kingdom newsletter is not ideal use of local newsletter space.

Read the last paragraph of the next article, about deadlines. This applies to local newsletters, too.



[1] This was written in 1984 when I was chronicler of the Principality of the Outlands, for the local chroniclers. It got much wider distribution, though, because Mistress Sula von Pferdenthal, who was corporate chronicler said "Your chronicler information is the best I've ever seen. May I send copies to other chroniclers?" I saved that letter to make me feel good on bad days. I've incorporated a suggestion she made, and dropped parts that were very timely or local.

[2] Ideas for starting a group history are included later in this chapter.

[3] This can be found in the G&PD (Governing and Policy Decisions) section in the Organizational Handbook of the SCA, which also includes Corpora, By-Laws, and other good things.

[4] This paragraph has changed from the original, as the wording of the disclaimer has changed.

[5] In some kingdoms the pattern is that officers are listed inside the last page, or the calendar is on the cover. Either copy the newsletters around you, or get creative, but keep things in such a way that your regular readers know where to look for them.

[6] If you're in a principality, as we were, add to this list principality chronicler, seneschal, prince and princess.

[7] This is the end of the article. What follows is new.

[8] Personally, this seems a mean and extreme argument, but it is a very legitimate argument, and just because I'm generous with letting people reprint my writings, it doesn't mean everyone feels the same way.

Copyright © by Sandra Dodd, 1991
Site design by
Ninth Circle