Trimble trial’s tribulations

Michele Roehrig

Grad student studies effects of murder case on JMC students

Are you ready for the real world?

That’s what Kent State graduate student Gretchen Dworznik is wondering about journalists-in-training.

Dworznik, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in communication studies, is researching the emotional and psychological effects of the James E. Trimble triple murder case on student journalists who covered the trial.

The trial of James Trimble took place last fall after he was charged with the murder of Renee and Dakota Bauer and Kent State student Sarah Positano. Judge John Enlow sentenced Trimble to death by lethal injection on three aggravated murder counts Nov. 16.

“Rarely do you get that kind of opportunity as a student journalist,” Dworznik said. “They got to report like the paid folks and experience like the paid folks.”

A television reporter for six years, Dworznik said she did not feel prepared for the emotional demands of the job. As a police beat reporter, she had to frequently approach victims and their families. She said she did not know what to say to them without feeling rude or intrusive.

Dworznik said she aims to help young journalists know how to react to traumatic situations. Her long-term goal is to develop a class that teaches the basics in approaching victims.

Dworznik said she feels the current attitude is that a journalist should remain detached from traumatic events. However, she believes that this approach not only affects the quality of the story but also harms the journalist.

“You’re harming yourself,” Dworznik said. “You need to feel; you won’t act if you’re not affected.”

So far, Dworznik has spoken with six students from last semester’s Daily Kent Stater staff, TV-2 staff and reporting public affairs class. She said most of the students covered a large portion of the trial and had a lot of different experiences.

Tony Hardman, senior broadcast news major and news director at TV-2, is one of the students Dworznik has spoken with. Hardman attended opening testimonies, closing arguments and the sentencing.

Hardman’s general reaction to the trial was to behave as a journalist. He said he thought of Trimble’s brother’s testimony as “an amazing soundbyte.” He said he remained detached during the trial but he reflected on it after the day was over.

However, putting the inner reporter aside, he had an opinion on how he wanted the trial to end.

“I was pushing for a side,” Hardman said. “I hoped he would get the worst, especially having the victim’s family behind me.”

Hardman said being the TV-2 news director, having a strong internship experience and going to Kent State all made him feel “very, very prepared” for the trial. However, Hardman said his calm reaction was mostly because of his five years of military experience. As a health care specialist, or medic, in the Army Reserve, he is used to dealing with traumatic situations.

Although Hardman feels prepared for his profession, he said the trial did affect his life.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it,” Hardman said. “It is on my mind.”

Contact Graduate studies reporter Michele Roehrig at [email protected]