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Cavas: Navy chef feeds 'Army.' Is this a PR problem?

May. 29, 2013 - 07:01PM   |  
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Sunday mornings reading Parade magazine have been a favorite pastime of mine for more years than I care to mention. Even though Walter Scott is long gone, I still keep the habit of ripping open the newspaper’s Sunday supplement package and going straight to Parade.

The May 19 issue didn’t feature a hot actress or a story on what people earn. Refreshingly, it featured a senior chief petty officer, Derrick Davenport — named Chef of the Year by the Pentagon — and used him to highlight the impressive renaissance turning military chow into something that legitimately aspires to be called “cuisine.”

But the headline, “How do you feed an Army?” didn’t reference Senior Chief Culinary Specialist (SS) Davenport’s naval service.

When I turned to the story, there was a nice headline, “Top gun chef,” surrounded by cool graphics of ships and naval things and kitchen implements. I liked the graphic and took a close look before beginning to read. Where was the Army stuff and — since they invoked “Top Gun” — the aircraft? Not there.

One of the ship silhouettes was used twice — the instantly recognizable, at least to me, shape of the famous Nazi battleship Bismarck. Or, if you have to be picky, its sister ship, Tirpitz.

The first mention of Davenport’s association with the Navy finally came in the story’s ninth sentence. Ah, now I get it, that’s why all the ship-related graphics.

But there was no clue on the cover that Davenport was in the Navy, nor on the full-page photo featuring the senior chief in a Pentagon kitchen.

The word “Navy” was MIA from its main story headline, but “Army” was there. And the graphics to illustrate the story — no doubt chosen by some graphic artist from a collection of clip-art icons — included no current U.S. Navy ships. The newest ships in the collection date from the 1960s, although a couple of the types lasted into this century.

So I’m thinking, is this a graphic illustration (pun intend­ed) of a Navy public relations problem? Is the public’s awareness of its great Navy so thin that mainstream publications don’t think they can put the word in a cover headline? Are editors and artists so clueless that no one thinks to check the art for a such a story to make sure it’s current? Or appropriate?

There were three photos of Davenport — taken in a studioapparently at the Pentagon, but nothing of him during his service making meals aboard the attack submarine Annapolis orduring his tour in Afghanistan training Afghan culinary specialists.

Navy Times recognized Davenport when he won the top chef award in March. It’s nice that a publication like Parade picked up on it. But I’m still waiting for the mainstream to get comfortable using words like “Navy” and “sailors” without having to explain they’re like “Army” or “troops.”

_____

Cavas is a former managing editor of Navy Times and now covers naval warfare for Defense News. Email him at ccavas@militarytimes.com.

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