YOU can’t believe what you read in the papers.

How many times have we heard — or uttered — that phrase?

Of course, sometimes it is true — there are plenty of trashy publications around who stretch the truth as easily as if it were a rubber band.

However, this era of Fake News is in a whole new ball park. They’ve actually bought a new ball park to put it in. No they haven’t — that’s fake news. See what I did there?

Fake News is getting on my nerves somewhat because I have spent my entire career telling the truth to the best of my ability.

As a journalist who has worked on a number of ‘local rags’ as they’re more often than not referred to, I can vouch for the honesty and integrity of local journalism.

And before you splutter your cuppa all over your toast, yes, I know — we get things wrong.

Of course we do. Because we’re human.

And sadly, as with just about every other industry in the country, journalism too has fallen victim to relentless cuts over the years and whereas a page was once checked by five or six people, now sometimes it is merely one or two people who look at it before it hits the press.

However, there is nothing malicious in the cock-ups which sometimes make it into print. And we will always hold our hands up if we do get something wrong. After all, it’s only polite.

One of my favourite ever corrections was in a paper I worked at in Northamptonshire. It read: “Children at Oundle School will not be appearing naked in their forthcoming production of Equus, as was previously reported. We apologise for any confusion.”

I imagine confusion didn’t even come close.

But the difference between an honest mistake made by a humble local reporter and the rash of fibs known as Fake News is the first is not deliberate and, provided it is swiftly corrected, it is unlikely to cause any real harm.

Fake News, on the other hand, is damaging not just in the misinformation it spreads but in its fall-out — namely that people no longer know what to believe.

The internet and the rise of social media are wonderful things in many, many ways.

However, those of us old enough to remember life before the digital revolution will know they have also caused problems in ways we never dreamt of.

News — whether fake or real — is now at our fingertips 24/7. Anyone can broadcast their thoughts, share videos of events and ‘report’ on the world around them.

But there is a reason reporters go to journalism college. It’s so we understand the law — how not to libel someone or collapse a court case by committing contempt, for example.

It’s so we understand, and honour, the code of conduct about privacy and intrusion into grief.

It’s so we don’t blindly present rumour as fact. My old journalism tutor used to say: “If someone tells you it’s raining, don’t just write it down and present it as fact — look out the window and make sure it’s true!”

If Fake News and internet gossips are allowed to continue to hijack the world of news at the same time as newspaper sales are falling nationally, there is a danger that a long and noble profession will slowly fall away.

And yes, it is a noble profession. We are not the weasly, Mac-wearing sleazeballs television dramas make us out to be.

We are human beings who live alongside you in your neighbourhoods and care about the town we live in.

Without us, no one will take the council to task when necessary or hold to account companies on behalf of the hard-done-by individual or be there to see that justice is being done in our courts.

Mistakes and all, we have an important role to play in a democratic society. So keep an eye out for the Fake News but please keep supporting the real news. Even if it’s got a typo or two in it.

You’re having a laugh, n’est-ce pas?

THERE are three great things about having a dog in your life.

One is walkies. Even when it’s cold and grey and you don’t feel like going out, the dog will, through a series of stares, heavy hints and some skilful whining, ensure you put in the steps better than a Fitbit.

And once you’re out there, you feel the benefits of fresh air and exercise, marvel at the subtle daily changes of nature and, well, it never gets boring watching a dog in action, with the sniffing, the mooching, the crazy running and the cheery or tentative hellos to other dogs. It’s better than any other therapy available. Dogs should be prescribed to beat depression, although be warned — they’re more addictive than Prozac.

The second thing is the cuddles. Warm furriness, wet nose and soft ears — plus those hefty paws that give you a shove when they think they don’t have their fair share of the couch. There’s nothing cosier and more beautiful on a winter’s evening.

And the third thing is the comedy they provide. I have never laughed so much in my life as I have since meeting the Dog. Whether he’s bouncing at squirrels, woofing in his sleep or eviscerating a cushion, it’s hard to keep a straight face.

Which is why I was taken aback by an interview with an animal campaigner from an animal charity on the radio the other morning.

I didn’t catch her name or the name of the charity — my jaw hitting the floor made quite the racket, I’m afraid, so I missed it.

But this woman said we shouldn’t laugh at our dogs. It hurts their feelings, apparently.

She told the interviewer that they can tell the difference between laughed at and laughed with.

Seriously? For a start, dogs don’t actually laugh so you can never actually laugh with them.

To be fair, she was talking about the recent craze for fur-jazzling, which I have to say I think should be banned.

No dog wants its claws painted like a harlot. It certainly won’t taste right to them and must be quite disturbing. Equally, dyeing fur bright blue or pretty pink is, I think, cruel.

But to suggest that dogs don’t like you laughing at them when they do something daft is crazy. They love attention, and humans squawking and shrieking and shaking with mirth is a positive reaction as far as a hound is concerned.

A dog who has just torn up a cushion and sent feathers flying all over the sitting room while looking like butter wouldn’t melt should be ignored according to modern dog training manuals. Don’t scold or punish, simply ignore bad behaviour. But that’s easier said than done because it does actually look very funny.

I don’t for a second think young houndly sat there in his room-sized feathered nest thinking “they’re laughing at me, not with me - I don’t get the joke, I’m now traumatised”. I’m pretty sure he thought “great, I’m not in trouble - I can do this again... and again... until I’ve killed all the cushions” (and he did).

For heaven’s sake, humans, use some common sense. Don’t torment your dog with stupid outfits or makeup. Respect the fact that he’s a dog.

But never stop laughing at them. It’s one of the three great things they bring to your life.

Throw away the key

I HOPE the police are quick to catch up with the witless saddos who pushed a flatbed trolley in front of a group of motorcyclists as they rode along Drakes Way.

One of the motorcyclists is now on crutches and may need surgery. It could have been much, much worse.

The fact that these idiots thought it okay to pull such a prank in the first place beggars belief. The fact that they laughed and cheered as their victim was thrown off her bike and into the air is beyond words.

I could call for justice to be done and done properly — no measly fines or community sentences for this lot, please, Your Honour. But it sounds as though they are beyond help.

They are clearly without common sense, compassion or a normal sense of what is entertaining.

Lock them up and let them rot. Society will be better off without them.