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Journalism - The Guardian

City diary
Tuesday November 12, 2002

  • Sir Alan Sugar's blinkered confidence in his emailer continues apace. In what must surely be the final attempt to push the email/SMS/internet/phone all-in-one on to an ungrateful nation, Amstrad is spending yet more millions advertising it for the Christmas market. It did the same thing last year and no one bought the device. The same the year before. Meanwhile, its debts continue to grow, dragging the group's profits down. Sugar announced in May 2000 that he would sell two million within two years. He has sold 150,000 to date. Now with the chance to sell huge numbers of Freeview set-top boxes to people who want digital TV but not monthly fees, isn't it time Sir Alan did the honourable thing and just let the emailer go?

  • EasyCar's new approach to chasing rogue customers appears to be paying off. Two days after Tony Meakin's pic appeared on the company website's overdue cars section, he drove up to the Liverpool branch, dumped the keys on the desk and legged it, a spokesman tells us. Unfortunately, according to the spokesman, Meakin still owes a month's rental. "We will get the overdue fees if we can," EasyGroup's James Rothnie said. "We're just glad to have our main asset back." The same can't be said for Geoffrey McVey, whose grey Mercedes A class is still on the Most Wanted list. Perhaps EasyGroup should have gone for its trademark orange paintjob instead of the easily removable EasyCar stickers.

  • No one can accuse Amazon boss Jeff Bezos of not being hands on. Thousands of customers were delighted at the weekend to receive what appeared to be a personal email from the great man telling them of Amazon's wonderful new Apparel and Accessories store. You'd think he'd be too busy, but not our Jeff - he can't get enough of Liz Claiborne cardigans. So if you want to congratulate him direct, why not reply to

  • The prize for ponderous pap this week goes to George Pitcher, author of The Death of Spin. In his book, George threatens to "reassess the fundamental process of human communications". How? By "observing the green shoots of the post-spin age" - an age, apparently, where "honesty is the new spin". Miraculously, he also reveals that bending the facts to fit your argument is not new. "The City was spinning like a top long before Westminster ever learned how to," he says. Sounds like he's disappeared up his own zeitgeist.

  • Keeping it real are veteran spin doctors Tim Halford and Geoff Potter, who have set up a company called Stonehenge PR. Nothing to do with druids or naked midnight dances we are told, simply "more fun and memorable than Corporate Communications Consultancy - our first idea". Tim swears he hasn't seen Spinal Tap, in which an undersized Stonehenge model is lowered to the stage and nearly squashed by dancing dwarfs.

  • You'd think that with the internet blamed for a huge fall in global music sales (down 1.4bn this year, according to a report yesterday), the British Phonographic Industry would be the last to encourage teenagers to build music websites. Not so. It actively wants young girls to enter a competition to create a site for its artists and even threw a star-studded party on Friday to launch the event. At least that is what we thought. It turns out that the seven girls posing for the cameras at the event were all daughters of the organisers, E-skills, that "celebrity" guests including Gareth Gates, EastEnders' Jamie Mitchell and actor Nick Moran were conspicuous by their absence and even Pop Stars rejects Liberty X only managed a video link-up. Just in case you were wondering, under the rules of the competition, no site may feature any sound. Judges are said to be waiting with bated breath.

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