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ISU Professor Reflects on Coverage of New Netflix Thriller

Written by on October 24, 2022

NORMAL, Ill. – September 21st saw the debut of a new Netflix original series that has audiences turning their heads and wanting more. Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story premiered to massive critical acclaim, reaching the number one most watched show on Netflix that week with nearly four billion minutes watched in the first four days.

As time passed and the series became the ninth most watched English-language show of all time, fans began to look into the history about what really happened on the fateful night Dahmer was caught in 1991. In the time before streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, cable TV was the place to watch brand new episodes of TV, as well as the news. That night, a news station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was about to learn about one of Jeffrey Dahmer’s final acts of murder.

Laura Trendle-Polus was a Newscast Producer at WISN-TV from 1990 to 1996. Currently, she helms TV-10 News at Illinois State University as the News Director. Polus still remembers what happened the night Dahmer was caught.

“She turned to me right away and said, ‘Oh my Gosh, I can’t believe what this guy said on the phone. He said we should get over here to this address, because police are here and they found a head in a refrigerator,'” said Polus.

With the release of the new Netflix series, Polus has received a lot of attention from students, friends and the media about her role that night, being the first to break broadcast news on Jeffrey Dahmer.

“I think somewhere in the back of their head they were like ‘Dahmer, Dahmer… oh yeah! That Journalism Professor, yeah, she did something,'” said Polus. “So people have found their way to me and it’s been casual conversations and it’s been social media and it’s been some media coverage, I have done a few interviews. But it’s an interesting thing to be remembered for or recognized for.”

The true crime genre has seen a rise in popularity over the last few years and the new series is proof of it. It’s exposure has allowed it top the charts of Netflix in a short period of time, and Polus has a theory as to why viewers are drawn to the show and the genre.

“I think it’s that idea of the stranger beside me,” said Polus. “People can’t believe that somebody could exist in this world and be a monster and be evil, but look like a normal guy or woman. It’s crazy to think about and we are fascinated by things that are crazy like that.”

At the end of the day, Polus keeps her head held high when reminiscing about that night. The Emmy-winning journalist is appreciative of her team’s hard work when the opportunity struck.

“Yes, I am proud, because I reacted like a journalist should react,” said Polus. “I got information on the story, I worked with my team to make sure that we produced a good and true and accurate story. Watching back these videos now, I am kind of blown away by how accurate my team was less than six hours after that phone call.”