A few weeks ago I received an email that I got very excited about. Here’s a screenshot:

Yay! Wait?

I posted about my enthusiasm for Riley on Instagram and Twitter, and people began to get excited for him. Then I heard that our Great Big Interview had actually been … a Great Big Ad. Here’s what I shared on Twitter about how it went down:

As for my “beyond shady” comment … well, I regret that now. But here’s why I wrote it:

After a few days had passed …

Here’s his story. It’s good. It’s all good.

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Christine
9 years ago

Ack that’s so frustrating. I’m glad that you have the social media presence to call them out and be heard. I hope Riley isn’t disappointed that he’s in a commercial rather than on air.

Jesabes
9 years ago

I missed ALL OF THIS!! I was apparently out of town for Thanksgiving when it all went down and when I listened to Startup first thing this morning I freaked out. From the second they said Riley’s full name I couldn’t believe it was people I know (“know”). So sorry things were so messed up.

Melissa
9 years ago

Thanks for keeping us posted about how this all played out.

Jen
Jen
9 years ago

This is definitely what I call a “Be sure to drink…..YOUR OVALTINE????” moments. I thought the season was fitting. You touched upon something in the interview that spoke to my heart IMMEDIATELY…the embarrassment of feeling duped. That is a really sore spot with me because of a lack of confidence. I hate feeling like someone thinks they are tricking me into something. So, if something like this came about, my insecurities would definitely compound my reaction.

I’m glad that it is all sorted out.

Ris
Ris
9 years ago

Oooh snap. I would have also been very, very upset. Wow. Still seems super shady. I mean I’m glad you’re ok with how it all turned out and I appreciate their mea culpa but um, wow.

Erin
Erin
9 years ago

Listening to the podcast now — I’m so glad this got straightened out and that they owned up to their mistake. It was definitely a colossal fuckup on their part, but we all make mistakes and Alex Blumberg generally seems to be a stand-up guy.

Also… it just made me happy in general to hear your and Riley’s voices.

Sara
Sara
9 years ago
kakaty
kakaty
9 years ago

You are WAY more graceful than I would have been. I just … this wasn’t a little mistake. It was a colossal mistake. I know everyone makes mistakes but this was mistake after mistake after mistake.

I’m glad Alex was transparent about what happened, and that policies are being put in place and that he very publicly apologized. But I’m still uneasy about how easily this happened to a 9 year old.

(your voice is lovely BTW)

miette
9 years ago

I winced at listening to the episode today– I’m a radio and interactive media producer, and it’s SO EASY to miss one of those finer details. I hope Lina still has her job, and a more comprehensive punch list.

Also, I should note that while I think you were entirely right to express your concern publicly, I’m also glad to see the transparency in how you and Blumberg resolved things. It’s so easy online to dissolve into ad hominem attacks, that to see two people remain professional even on a public and highly visible online forum is SURPRISING as the exception and not the rule. Bravo to all involved.

Joanne
9 years ago

I think you are much, much nicer than I am. That sounds like a big pile of bs to me and I would be furious if something like that happened to one of my kids. I had to laugh when at the beginning of the podcast they talk about their *weeks* of hard work,

kat
kat
9 years ago

wow, all of your tweets were handled with SUCH class and grace given the situation. especially considering it’s riley, a kid and the expectation. glad they apologized and addressed this but still blurring the line of shade given they should have told you about how they were using the interview as context. really, that wasn’t hard. bravo to you for standing up though and making it hopefully better for the future.

kat
kat
9 years ago

i’m listening to the podcast now – wow lina, man, she cried. big learning curve, there.

Mary Clare
Mary Clare
9 years ago

That sucks, especially for Riley, that the kerfuffle happened. Still, Alex was very apologetic and you did a great job explaining your side of things in a calm way.

sooboo
sooboo
9 years ago

As a freelance person who deals with a lot of different kinds of companies and businesspeople, I found this whole thing really interesting. Many times a situation has been presented to me one way and then it plays out entirely differently. Sometimes it’s accidental, often it’s not. In this case, I thought everyone handled this well and I think it was definitely a learning curve for them. I was delighted to hear your actual voice; strong, personable, funny, honest, just like your writing!

sal
sal
9 years ago

Lady, you are all class.

Melody
9 years ago

I am a devoted podcast listener, and have been listening to Start Up from its beginning. I have had nothing but respect and good feelings for Alex Blumberg, and it really disappointed me tremendously when I heard about this, from you, one of my favorite online blog people! One person I like was letting down another person that I like!

I am glad you feel good about how it got resolved. I am honestly kind of nerding out about how one of my favorite blog people is one of my podcasts.

Angella
9 years ago

I’ll listen to the podcast on my drive home, but wanted to say that I’m glad it all worked out and that they owned up to their mistake(s). I’m also looking forward to hearing your voice, friend. :)

Jen T.
Jen T.
9 years ago

How cool to hear your voice! You sounded great. So warm and friendly. You made great points and shared your side very well.

I’m glad you feel good about how everything worked out, but after listening to the podcast, I just can’t get over how unprofessional their producer, Lina, comes across. It still seems like more than an oversight on her part. It seems more like she wasn’t getting many bites for people wanting to be interviewed for a podcast and was purposefully deceitful. I don’t see any other way to read her email. Also crying at work? I’ve come close, but that’s a big no.

Cherie
Cherie
9 years ago

I am usually very understanding of job-related mistakes, but I’m not gonna lie. My skeptical eyebrow is waaaaay up. She disclosed to everyone BUT you? Or were you the only one with enough knowledge of the field to catch it and a large enough following to be noticed? I’m going with the latter. But you were super classy. There’s absolutely no reason to take the low road here, so you are right to move on.

kristin
kristin
9 years ago

Happy you’re happy! But… yikes. There is no way in hell that was an oversight. What would’ve happened if you hadn’t made a (totally justified) stink, yanno?

Beth
Beth
9 years ago

So, as someone who listened to the entire podcast – it’s still shady as hell. I frankly don’t buy it. Even in the podcast, at several points, the whole crew is basically like, “Uh oh, I hope this goes away!” They are publicly, vocally much more concerned about their own images than with the ethical (and legal?!) ramifications of what they’ve done.

There were so many opportunities for them to correct your very obvious and understandable belief that Alex was currently with This American Life, not to mention the fact that they didn’t offer ANY FORM of compensation or have you sign any kind of release, especially considering they were using a minor’s real name and voice for an ad.

How could this go through so many steps and at no point in the entire process did anyone say the word “ad”?

Carla Hinkle
Carla Hinkle
9 years ago

First of all, I’m so glad the show apologized and owned up to their mistakes. And I’m glad you called them on it.

What struck me after listening to the podcast is how a small mistake or sloppiness (Lina’s to you) can get amplified. And it is not at all uncommon for a number of mistakes that are small in isolation to be compounded. And eventually to stop it, someone needs to fall on their sword (so to speak) & just own ALL the mistakes with a giant apology.

I bet the new show (Start up?) will be EXTRA SUPER CAREFUL with advertising disclosures now.

As a civil attorney working with companies, my experience is that people mess up ALL THE TIME at work. All the time. And sometimes it’s a small mistake and sometimes it gets compounded, & sometimes the person owns it right away and sometimes they let it go a bit to see if it will resurface, and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. And usually it resolves eventually but it is often unpleasant in the meantime.

Also for those who are shocked at Lina’s lack of professionalism…she’s less than 5 years out of college. Some things you learn only by messing up (like be really, really meticulous in your disclosures regarding advertising, for example). I can think of some doozy mistakes I made my first five years as a working professional.

Beth
Beth
9 years ago

One more thing: the most cynical part of me thinks that they needed a clip for an ad quite quickly, and everyone else declined as soon as they got that email that said it was for an ad. So out of desperation your email got “forgotten.”

And not to be unsolicited internet advice lady, but it really is OK to be angry when it’s called for, even when it hurts people’s feelings. Some anger is well deserved.

Deanna
Deanna
9 years ago

You are so nice! I really have to think that if it were not *you* with your platform and followers it would have been blown off as no big deal.
Props to you for being a bigger person than I am.

Lori
Lori
9 years ago

What a bummer for Riley. I’m glad you stood up for him. You did a great job.

Melissa H
9 years ago

To echo an earlier commenter 1. this kinda sucks, poor Riley, I have a daughter his age and disappointment is so hard to deal with (though perhaps the site traffic is making up for it now??) 2. I got oddly excited about the folks I follow on the internet converging in an unexpected way. I’ve followed your blog since clubmom which seems like ages ago and I’ve been following start up since they launched a few months ago. That podcast is always cringe worthy but no episode more than this one. Yikes.

Doug
Doug
9 years ago

You must be LOVING all this attention! That’s what you wanted, right? ;)

Erin
9 years ago

I think you handled this really well! I have been listening to Start Up (and Reply All) during my commute and I didn’t even realize that two of my internet worlds had collided. “The Twitter” is just too much of a time suck for me so I didn’t know this happened until last night (a bit behind in other podcasts as I binge listen to Serial and all the other assorted spinoffs).

This was definitely super shady… I think I would have been much angrier and definitely would not have been as well spoken as you were.

And also – Riley’s site is so great! I’ll have to tell my 8 year-old about it!

Charles Mann
Charles Mann
9 years ago

Meh. Seems like a tempest in a teapot.

While Blumberg’s producer did screw up, it seems that you got too starry-eyed and didn’t do your homework. When they were recording, you didn’t have any questions about the segment at all? You just let them record your kid without know what the material was going to used for?!

rachel
rachel
9 years ago

wow. so frustrating. for what it’s worth, riley did an awesome job! so glad i got to hear him!

Laura
Laura
9 years ago

FIRE LINA! That’s the best thing to do.

KL
KL
9 years ago

Hmmmmmm.

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago

On the upside, maybe Riley will be the next Mail Kimp girl!

KD
KD
9 years ago

I’ve been reading you for well over a decade now, and I just wanted to send some love your way. Thinking of you guys and wishing you all the best. Onward and upward, all the way. Hugs!

Jen
Jen
9 years ago

Hi Linda…I’m a fan of you and your writing and a follower on Twitter, and I just wanted to send some love and good thoughts your way. I know you will make it through this and come out stronger on the other side.

Nicki
Nicki
9 years ago

Long-time reader and very, very rare commenter, but just wanted to send good thoughts to you and your family. Work through this and come out the other side healthy, happy, and whole. You have it in you to deal with this head-on and to be successful for yourself and your sons. Good luck.

MA from MI
MA from MI
9 years ago

Hey, good for you, Linda. You did the right thing and handled this beautifully and you made a difference. To Alex Blumberg. Alex Fucking Blumberg. That is pretty damn awesome. I’m sorry Riley got caught up in it, but he will learn an important lesson from how you handled it. Also — It is VERY cool to just hear this whole conversation — the two of you talking — his voice so familiar and your words so familiar but finally vocalized. And to hear Riley. Well, my heart melted.

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Sam
Sam
9 years ago

Holy overreacting. At least you’re famous! Also, 6 year olds playing Minecraft?

Carolyn K
9 years ago

I am sorry, I listened to the podcast where he had you on and was trying to gain favor back from the masses but there are huge holes in his whole story. Mr. experienced producer does not know that people are paid for ads? Believe me this guy is slick where money is concerned, he does nothing unless his pockets are padded. Sponsors of $6000 or more on his first few podcasts while crying the blues about money and his great job he was leaving, then working up to more and more sponsors and donations. Give me a break, he just wanted all the Square Space money and did not want to have to pay a kid who should be so happy just to hear his voice. If it was one of his kids Blumberg would be there holding the contracts and demanding more than their fair share. I feel bad he bamboozeled you and your son like this. What a creep and then to try and say he did not even think about compensation, that is all he thinks about, he does nothing for free. What a lame excuse. He is such a bumbling idiot. However shows anyone if he could get sponsors for his podcast so could anyone. He did not even know how to write a business report and what did his wife want to offer his partner who wrote he business report and was the brains behind the greed? Oh that is right 5%, greed and unfairness seems to be a family trait with the Blumbergs. Their motto is less for you, more for us! Sorry the did that to you and your son, they really are a class act. Oh I mean classless. I bet she was like, just get him a Lego set, he will be fine, he is a kid. Oh but make sure you get one on the clearance rack and nothing over $25.

Katee
Katee
9 years ago

Read your story. Gah! Media.

I wondered if Riley would like to try out this new game.

https://www.facebook.com/stikkmenn

It was developed by a Canadian, now living in Norway who had worked for Electronic Arts.

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