“If you want to get rich, don’t bother becoming a journalist,” an old editor of mine once said.
Experience over the years has tended to suggest he was right, but this week I saw something that made me wonder.
Walking down Stabu street in central Riga my eye was assaulted by an automobile of quite exceptional vulgarity. Berthed by the pavement was a hulking Hummer, all black steel, blingtastic chrome and bececked with numerous Russian flags.
That in itself is not such an unusual sight in Riga. Quite a high proportion of the city’s overstated motors display overt Slavic sympathies.
What really caught my eye was the Press Card displayed in the windscreen. Keen to find out which paper was paying the big bucks – or possibly why Bob Woodward and John Pilger were driving around the Baltics in a Russian Hummer – I looked more closely.
The card purported to have been issued by the “International Press Association” in London and asserted that as a “bonafide” (sic) member B-PK 737 was therefore entitled to receive “all press facilities in all countries.” I was surprised I had never heard of the IPA despite spending more than a decade working as a journalist in London, but the prospect of all facilities in all countries including parking perks was too much to resist.
“Hot dang, I gotta get me one o’ them cards!” I said to myself, in more or less those exact words.
Back in the office I logged onto the IPA website, which turns out to be based in the US rather than UK. It seemed to be a legal organization but geared more towards getting access to American trade fairs than anything else. Its statement that “IPA is not the proper forum for controversial political views and commentary” and that “members do not report on wars, political conflicts or any other issues that would put our members in harms way” (sic) meant I crossed the Woodward/Pilger conspiracy off my list of explanations.
Interestingly, the IPA also carried a warning about bogus accreditation cards being issued in various countries around the world. This meant that membership applications from Russia would not be accepted.
Of particular note was a Cayman-islands based operation producing various counterfeit cards. “You can identify their Press ID, because they all show the London base on their cards and they all have a long expiration date,” the IPA says.
“Of course anyone purchasing one knows they are counterfeit, similar to purchasing a designer watch or ladies handbag,” IPA says.
That suggests that a fake card would probably only appeal to some sort of desperate show-off with grossly over-inflated idea of the importance of vulgar designer labels.
I must warn the Russian Hummer driver about this scam next time I walk down Stabu street.