It's the approach of the silly season again, that time of the year when news is so short that journalists are reduced to fabricating entire news stories. But do you think you could tell the difference between a real story and an invented one? Well, this is your chance to find out. I am bringing you a handful of news stories today, of which only one has appeared in the press. The rest have been made up as part of their course by young people doing a media studies degree. But can you spot the genuine one? Here we go!
1. It is well known that American hunters will pay a great deal of money to travel to Africa, go on illicit safaris and get to shoot protected species on the quiet, so much so that several species have become more endangered than they ever were.
A new and terrible trend has emerged from what was already a sinister development. If you have enough money, you can now buy the chance to eliminate a species altogether.
"It's true," admitted Rudi van Bronkhof, a South African operator who is in charge of it. "When we find that there are only one or two examples of one species left, we find there are plenty of Americans who will pay crazy money to be the last person in history to shoot it. At the moment we are down to the last four examples of Inkermann's impala. By the end of the month there will be none left."
But surely Inkermann's impala is actually quite common? Don't most zoos in the world have a few at least?
"Well, maybe," winks Van Bronkhof, "but for heaven's sake, don't tell my clients that."
2. Dr Otto Zubrik of Split University has invented something which he claims works in the opposite way to Viagra.
"Many men think that the most important thing in the world is to increase their manhood, their potency, their sexual powers, whatever you call it, and for them I am sure it is true. But there are other people for whom it is very important at certain times to resist excitement. I am thinking of athletes and other people whose kit leaves little to the imagination. Especially when male actors have to perform in the nude, it can ruin their performance disastrously if they, um, rise to the occasion, as it were. Now I have perfected a small pill which guarantees several hours of non-activity."
He is calling his product Niagra, as it makes everything go down.
3. AA Gill, the renowned acerbic restaurant critic, is being sued. Not, as it happens, by a restaurant, but by a man who is his lookalike double, Milton Carew.
"Looking like Gill has absolutely ruined my social life," says Carew. "I cannot go into a restaurant these days without being asked to leave immediately.
"Apparently they have a rogues' gallery of food critics pinned up in all the best kitchens these days, and as soon as one of them is recognised they are chucked out. Fair enough, but I don't see why I should be chucked out as well.
"I point out indignantly that my name is not Gill at all, but that cuts no ice; apparently most restaurant critics book under a false name anyway."
When told of the misery accidentally caused by him, Gill only shrugged and said: "Let him sue. Better still, let him grow a moustache."
4. It was, said Dutch police, the most original excuse they had ever encountered for speeding. When they stopped a Dutch driver doing twice the permitted speed in a 35mph zone, he claimed that he had just washed his car and was trying to get it dry. "Actually," said the stolid Dutch police, "if you want to dry your car, it is very effective to drive at the legal 35mph as well. Also, it is quite effective just to leave it parked in the open."
Well, have you made your selection? Which one had the ring of truth to you? Very good! It was the Dutch driver. And before you write in and say it sounds untrue, I didn't actually say it was true. I just said it had appeared in the papers.