Are broadcasters throwing the baby out with the bath water?

Is the excessive zeal for balance demonstrated by broadcasters and journalists in the context of the marriage referendum debate, harmful to real children and families?

My understanding of journalistic principles and codes comes from information freely available to the public online. I accept that my interpretation may be naïve and am open to education and contradiction.

While I write in a personal capacity, I am by profession a research psychologist who understands the importance of empirical evidence and the damage that stigmatization can cause to real children and families (see blogpost “Is balanced debate fair to families).

It is clear that Irish broadcasters have been zealous in their efforts to comply with The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality for News and Current Affairs.

“Throw the baby out with the bathwater” is an idiomatic expression used to suggest an avoidable error in which something good (truth, accuracy and humanity) is eliminated when trying to get rid of something bad (bias, imbalance and partiality).

A quick Google search reveals five guiding principles for responsible journalism.

  1. Truth and Accuracy
  2. Independence
  3. Fairness and Impartiality
  4. Humanity
  5. Accountability

Is the fervent focus of broadcasters on fairness and impartiality achieved at the expense of truth, accuracy and humanity? Is there an inherent and dangerous imbalance if all principles are not given equal weight?

Truth and Accuracy

Getting the facts right is a cardinal principle of journalism. It seems that journalists must always strive for accuracy, they must give all the relevant facts and they must ensure that they have been checked.


Journalists should do no harm and should be aware of the impact of words and images on the lives of others.

Broadcasters are in possession of evidence that contradicts the assertions that children are better off with mothers and fathers supplied by various parties including myself. The organisation representing one parent families, One Family, issued a press release referencing the evidence and indicating that harm is being caused.

I am aware that people have an entitlement to freedom of expression but  doesn’t the ‘Harm principle’ preclude any speech that attacks, disparages a person or group of persons on the basis of their race, religion, ethnic status, sexual orientation, disabilities or gender?

About sabinabrennan

I don't believe that we are any one thing. What and who we are at any moment in time is complex and context dependent. While labels are a useful shorthand that help us to navigate the world, all too often they play into people's prejudices and preconceptions. Here is a list of labels about me that begin with the letter 'p' Psychologist, Parent, Pro-Equality, Pacifist, Photographer, Perfectionist I could just as easily select another letter and make a different list of 'About me' labels. So try not to prejudge its just a list of labels beginning with 'p'
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