Phone hacking reverberations - rising media wariness

It's only personal, anecdotal evidence - nothing scientific here - but over the past two or three months, we at Hatch have noticed a marked difference in the level of wariness people have in dealing with the media. I'm wondering if other PRs are noticing this, too. Furthermore, I'm wondering if this is an immediate effect of the phone hacking scandal - the extent to which has only been exposed in the same time period - and has emerged as one of the most egregious attacks on privacy the media has conducted in nearly a decade. Of course, it was only one publication committing offense, hardly the whole sector - a publication that, sadly, people are still buying - but the effect seems to have reverberated across journalism as a whole. (But the question obviously still lingers, was it really just the News of the World, or is this typical everyday practice at the tabloids?)

It used to be that people in the tech sector (where Hatch mainly does business) were chomping at the bit to talk to me about what their technology was, what it did, whom it did it for, etc. In 2011, people are extremely quick to jump to the default "none of this can go to the press, by the way," line, glancing at me nervously as if I'm going to email my notes of the conversation to the BBC or the Financial Times the minute he or she turns her back. (And as if these world-class publications had been holding their front page for said notes.) They then drop their tone to a whisper and start giving me yes or no answers to innocuous questions such as, 'how long have you been using the technology?'

Obviously, I'm used to some level of wariness, and believe all media spokespeople should have an amount of it, particularly when dealing with the UK press. But lately it seems like a deep-seeded fear that innermost secrets will be exposed, jobs will be lost, and all hell will break loose if a PR goes anywhere near valuable information.

We're interested if other media professionals have noticed this increasing wariness, and whether you have other explanations for it. Further, what impact will this have on our industry, when we are paid to talk about stuff, and no one wants to talk?

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