Sometimes the holes in a news story are so big they go unnoticed.

That’s what happened last week with the reporting about a terrible and senseless crime in New Mexico.

Every story, including one television station’s account that dripped with venom, identified a suspect in a deadly drive-by shooting in Albuquerque as the 18-year-old son of state Rep. Stephanie Maez.

Not one news report mentioned the teenager’s father. It was as though Rep. Maez alone was solely responsible for her son Donovan’s existence.

Pregnancy and parenthood involve two people. Yet in this case, the focus of the news coverage was entirely on a young mother.

I say young because Rep. Maez is only 35 years old. Her son is now older than she was when she gave birth to him.

Being a teenage mother couldn’t have been easy for Maez. Most kids her age were learning to drive when she was learning to be a parent, shouldering the responsibility alone.

Her life has only gotten harder when the reverse should have been true. Donovan Maez, though having reached adulthood, is almost as helpless as a newborn after his arrest on suspicion of murder.

The worst and most unfair coverage of the case, by Albuquerque television station KOB, implied that Rep. Maez also bore responsibility for her son’s alleged crime.

KOB began its story this way: “The credibility of state Representative Stephanie Maez is being questioned after her son, Donovan, was charged with the murder of popular high school teen, Jaydon Chavez-Silver.”

The station subsequently removed the story from its website, the original script scrubbed from view. KOB executives no longer want to claim the story they published, but they cannot erase it from human memory banks.

KOB in its story offered a forum for Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican, to attack Democratic Rep. Maez.

Johnson was eager to act superior and omniscient for a television audience. The Democrat-controlled board of commissioners in December appointed Maez to fill a vacant seat in the state House of Representatives. By Johnson’s account, Maez shouldn’t have been chosen because seven months after her appointment, an innocent boy was shot to death and Maez’s son subsequently was arrested as a suspect.

Johnson might not know it, but of the 23 women now serving in the state House of Representatives, four were unwed teenage mothers. Two of them are Democrats and two are Republicans, demonstrating that teen pregnancy is not limited to one political party or social class. Three of the four now are in their 30s and the other is 44.

On occasion, they’ve spoken publicly about the responsibility and fear that came with motherhood at a young age. Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen, once stood on the House floor during debate on an education bill for teen mothers and told colleagues of people looking down on her, predicting that she would not amount to anything.

Like most of you, I believe life’s pitfalls only grow bigger if unwed teenagers have children. But equally plain is that Johnson, KOB and others who attacked Rep. Maez were opportunists, happy to stand in judgment of her based on a charge against her son.

None of them asked about or mentioned Donovan Maez’s father. Instead, they directed their vitriol at Rep. Maez, who went to The University of New Mexico, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees, took over the leadership of a public policy organization and received an appointment to the Legislature.

Rep. Maez is just as driven and no less flawed than most of the other 69 members of the House of Representatives.

Motherhood was her hardest job. That hasn’t changed, and neither have unrelenting prejudices, as evidenced by KOB’s attack on Rep. Maez. If the station was so concerned about the parenting of a defendant in a murder case, why is it that only the mother was targeted?

It’s simple. Gender bias is alive and thriving in New Mexico.

Ringside Seat is a column about New Mexico’s people, politics and news. Look for it in Monday’s print edition. Follow the Ringside Seat blog at www.santafenewmexican.com. Contact Milan Simonich at 986-3080 or msimonich@sfnewmexican.com.

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(14) comments

Steve Fye

I am ashamed that some of the people involved with this horrible example of unethical journalism and bias are graduates of the same journalism program I attended. Their instructors must be just as dismayed as I am.

Neal Devitt

A good dissection of bias in a feeding frenzy by the media and ugly sleazy opportunism by one politician, Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson. Why is there still no mention of the father in media accounts and political backstabbing statements about this tragic story? A teen parent often succeeds only because of strong support by a good family.

Robert DeWalt

Wonderful insights. Although, "parenthood," by its very definition, does not require two people.

leanne gonzalez

"It is what it is."

Khal Spencer

So, Mr. Simonich, where is the father? This young man's life, according to other Journal stories, started going off the rails some time ago and the parents, to some degree,should be held accountable. That's parents in plural. Let's also remember that the young man is being tried in the press (as is his mom) and he has yet to have his day in court.

I'm not entirely convinced this is about gender bias alone. To some degree, the public is more than willing to throw a politician of either party (and either gender) under the bus when they show their feet of clay. A story like this is fresh meat to the anti-political sentiment rampant in a cynical nation today.

For Rep. Maez to have done all she has done in life is admirable. One has to ask why children seek out the worst role models for their lives rather than the amazing ones, such as in this case, the lady who gave birth to him.

Khal Spencer

By the way, let's not forget the context of this story. Albuquerque has been victimized by numerous, high profile violent crimes lately and I suspect the public is getting a little tired of having to watch its back. I read in the Journal that the city is even considering a curfew for teens. To some degree, it is not surprising that folks are asking for accountability and justice. Rep. Maez is, whether entirely fair or not, a highly visible target as a state legislator. But dumping on Rep. Maez will not solve the problems. People can't lose the forest for the trees.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Is she his Mother? Did she raise this criminal? Did she pay attention to what he was doing? Did she guide his life as any ordinary parent would do? The criminal's grandmother knew he was a meth head for years, but his Mom is clueless??? There is no criticism of this kind of parenting (and I use the term loosely) that is unfair or exaggerated. This woman is accountable and responsible for what her son has become, period, like it or not bleeding hearts.

Diane Denish

Thank you for this column. I personally called the station and spoke to The young,woman reporter and her superior Chris.Ramirez who had no legitimate defense but complained that Maez had not gone on camera with them. Why should Maez go on camera to defend her self against this bias when her life has been turned upside down.? Wayne Johnson is a former employee of KOB TV and continues to manipulate them to his own benefit but this time he managed to embarrass them. Wayne Johnson is a self serving, camera hog and it is my hope that women and the community will not forget this when he runs for higher office. Thank you again for this column.

Mike Palaima

Thank you Diane. But creepy Wayne got his story? Temporarily.

Dr. Michael Johnson

"Why should Maez go on camera to defend her self against this bias when her life has been turned upside down."

Because she is his Mom and is responsible for his actions as a kid under her supervision and living in her house, don't you get that Di?

Elisabeth Wooster

Hear, Hear.

Tony Sawtell

[thumbup]

Pam Walker

Exactly.

karl hardy

[thumbup]

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