by Courtney Roberts-Lawes
“It’s about bringing restitution, not revenge.”
That’s the message from former Citytv reporter and former host of the hit show, Silverman Helps, Peter Silverman, who spoke to aspiring journalists at Centennial College’s HP campus on Monday.
While many who watched his show may have thought Silverman’s concern was exposing and bringing down the ‘bad guys,’ he made it quite clear that it was about getting compensation for exploited victims.
Silverman, who taught at the University of Cape Town in South Africa during Apartheid, frequently witnessed discrimination and wanted to give a voice to the voiceless.
“At some stage, you have to say ‘This is wrong,’” he says. This desire to reveal unheard stories may have started one of the most well known Canadian news programs, Silverman Helps. The show aired twice a week for 19 years and shed light on the unfortunate circumstances thousands of average citizens were faced with.
Several students raised the concern of objectivity and how important it is when covering in-depth stories. Silverman made it very clear that this form of advocacy ‘journalism’ is about “restitution, not revenge.”
He told the class about a young man who suffered from Fabry disease, a disease that can be controlled quite well with daily administration of enzyme medicine. The medicine, however, is not covered by OHIP and costs about $300,000 a year. After receiving several letters from Fabry patients, Silverman investigated the issue and found that the government was spending just as much money to keep the patients hospitalized and on the support of several machines.
“These people deserve to live, if you gave them the drug, they would be successful members of society,” Silverman said.
Throughout his several years covering crime, Silverman has established that covering a story for the unheard can be the most rewarding part of a story.
The award-winning reporter started out in 1974 for Global TV covering a variety of beats. He was also the host for Code 10-78, a half hour of re-enacted unsolved crimes. The show gave a detailed description of what it was like to be a cop. When Silverman covered the issue of racial profiling, he had to report on the O.P.P, instead of reporting with them as usual.
“You develop their trust and try to report fairly, however, what they [the cops] think is fair is a different story,” Silverman said.
ed. note: Silverman is now teaching at Centennial College’s joint journalism program with the University of Toronto. http://www.centennialcollege.ca/thecentre/silverman