Waiter, there’s a distortion in my headline

The New York Times isn’t just mainstream media on paper these days. It’s also mainstream media online, with a side order of social media. Its site includes a number of blogs, one of which recently included a post entitled 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1).

There’s been a lot of discussion about the post. There are over a thousand comments at NYTimes.com. There’s also lively discussion at reddit, at reddit (which seems over-tolerant of duplicate submissions), and at Waiter Rant (in a post that delivers the promised rant), and, I’m sure at many other sites.

Many of the comments are critical of the list of 50 things (50 more will follow in Part 2) that restaurant staffers should never do. But I’m fairly sure that Bruce Buschel, the author of the post, wrote no such list. I think that he wrote the post itself, including the first sentence: “Herewith is a modest list of dos and don’ts for servers at the seafood restaurant I am building.”

So “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1)” shouldn’t be considered a blog post title, since it wasn’t written by the blogger. It should be considered a headline, probably written by a copy editor. The headline misrepresents the post in at least three ways.

First, and worst, the headline makes it sound as though the list applies to all restaurants, while the post makes it clear that it is about a particular restaurant. Second, the headline refers to restaurant staffers, while the post is about front of the house staff. Third, the headline refers to things that should never be done, while the post lists dos as well as don’ts.

I’ve emailed BB to check my hypothesis that he didn’t write the headline. If he replies, I’ll update this post. Update: reply received, hypothesis confirmed. I like the sound of his restaurant, by the way. I don’t like the way a misleading headline can be put on a thoughtful piece of writing, even if said piece of writing is controversial – especially if it’s controversial.