At the Southern Utah News, our priority is to deliver the information needed about goings on around southern Utah and northern Arizona, so our wonderful readers can communicate with and engage with what is happening in their community. We’re constantly working to do that job well, and that means a little innovation here and there.
But we also like to entertain - boring news is news folks aren’t reading, which means it’s not doing its job right out of the gate. So, as we work to improve our ability to engage with each other in civil public discourse… Why not have a little fun in the meantime?
Southern Utah News is putting together a pilot program, just a little experiment, to see if we can improve the ways we engage with our readership - we’re going to tell a story together with you, lovely reader. Here’s how it works: we’re writing a mystery story, and we’re going to publish a new chapter of it each week. That’s where you come in: at the end of each chapter will be a poll with a series of choices about where the story is going to go next. The SUN team will post those choices on the Southern Utah News website - SUNews.net - and anyone who wants to can sign on and cast their vote as to what the next step in the adventure’s going to be.
As it stands now, a subscribership is not necessary to participate, and this little pilot is a fun way to pave the way for more means of engaging with our readership and giving the readers ways to engage with each other. If this story works, perhaps we’ll publish more choose-your-own-adventure style content in the future, in different genres and with different ways of expanding the experience with the readership. One way or the other, we hope to have a little fun trying! Let us know what you think.
Now then. Enough going on and on about the “why” of the story. Let’s get to the actual story, shall we? Without further ado, Southern Utah News presents …
A Road Paved with Good Intentions: A Red Iron Mystery
The private investigator’s lips pursed around the piece of grass between his teeth. He found it helpful to have something to literally chew on as he considered the facts as they were presented to him - and right now, he had plenty of facts to get his jaw working.
“...we got lucky enough,” Peter Glenn, the archaeological dig’s site manager, was rambling and leaving it to the PI to sort through what was pertinent, “whoever ransacked the place didn’t seem to know what of our gear was valuable. The most precious pieces of equipment are still here and intact. All we lost was… well, the contents of the dig site. Those…”
“More precious than anything.” The PI answered. From past experience, Glenn knew the PI thought out loud, so he quieted down and simply raised a curious eyebrow while the PI chewed on his grass stem and grumbled in that low rumbling tone of his.
“You say the guard on site got clubbed? Knocked out?” The PI pressed.
“Yup. By her own bat no less.” Glenn answered.
“Doesn’t seem professional for a security guard to carry a big aluminum baseball bat.” The PI glanced over at the guard, who now had a big gauze bandage wrapped around her head. Every once in a while, the archaeologist would check the injured woman’s pupils with a pen light, and the guard would wave her away and lean back to keep her icepack applied to the back of her head.
“She’s got all the regular goodies too - nightstick, pepper spray, the works. She likes to keep the old swatter around, ‘for good luck’ she says. Apparently, it’s got quite a few notches in its han- dle.” Glenn forced a rueful laugh in spite of the situation.
“How’d our thief get a hold of it?” The PI posed more to provide thinking material than out of expectation of the site manager answering the question.
The wind began to pick up, and the PI was reminded how dusty a dig site in the iron-packed sand on the Utah-Arizona border could be. He lowered the brim of his hat as the gust blew by, then looked back up at the ransacked dig - there was barely a tent or a shade covering that had been left untouched. The site had been turned upside down - they’d gotten lucky the thief was so uninformed that they didn’t steal or damage any of the expensive university equipment. The PI had worked the stem of tough desert grass to a pulp. His jaw set when Glenn sheepishly approached him with a clipboard and a pen.
“I don’t mean to interrupt your flow, but uh… would you mind signing this? The insurance folks need a name to confirm the ID of the investigating officer…”
TO BE CONTINUED
Now it's your turn to participate:
What is the name of the protagonist of our story?
Cast your vote with the poll above, and starting with next week’s chapter, votes will decide how best to guide the investigation, how you think we should gather clues and put together evidence. With your help, we might just solve this mystery!