Bing and Fox: Beware the Company You Keep

Obama waves State of the Union 2011

Photo Credit: Executive Office of the President of the United States (Creative Commons)

This is not a political rant. It’s not even really about politics. You’ll have to trust me on that because it’s probably going to seem very political at first. But really this is about trust, and about relationships.

Bing announced on Friday a special, first-of-its-kind project joining search, news and political commentary around the upcoming State of the Union address. At, citizens will be able to watch President Barack Obama’s live speech Tuesday evening while participating in real-time opinion polling, following political commentary on social media, and searching and filtering both news and social media related to the speech and the topics it covers.

“We hope to enable a deeper level of participation in the national dialog at this important moment (in) our national political life,” according to a blog post signed by Microsoft Corporate Vice President Mark Penn. The post promised “a non-partisan online destination designed to meet this growing need for up-to-the-minute political information and second-screen experiences that are a great companion to political broadcasts.”

Now here’s where it gets weird. … Bing is doing this in partnership with FOX News.

Really? This “non-partisan” site involves the most virulently conservative of all U.S. television networks? And that is supposed to inspire confidence in Bing’s ability to take the “pulse” of Americans watching the speech?

I did tell you this wouldn’t be a political rant, and I promise it’s not. I would be equally incredulous if Bing’s partner in this grand venture were MSNBC, Fox’s liberal doppelganger.

It will be interesting to see if Bing actually is able to deliver on its “non-partisan” promise while pairing its speech coverage “with commentary from FOX News pundits and other political experts via Twitter.” Maybe it will. But I have my doubts.

And that, really, is the point. Appearances count here, and regardless how balanced the coverage may turn out to be, I’m certain Bing will lose out on a swath of the public who simply will be unable to believe that a partnership with Fox News really could be non-partisan.

So take this as a warning. The people and groups with whom you associate reflect on you, and people will judge you based on these alliances. This is true both in your personal life (e.g., the people whom you endorse and who endorse you on LinkedIn) and in the life of your organization (the outside groups with whom your association, non-profit, or business affiliates itself).

Look closely at the reputation your partner brings to the table. And make sure there aren’t negatives that outweigh the positives.

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