There has been quite a lot said over the previous few months in regards to what is real or fake news and the sources that each comes from. I am lucky that a major part of my role at my job is to read. Currently, if you’re just getting by on reading headlines, there’s no way that you would be able to tell if either of the following stories are real or not.

Coming up are two headlines and a small summary of a story from a couple online publications.  Can you tell which headlines are real?

1) De-metrication to take 10, sorry – 12, years

This is a story about the preparation by the UK government regarding the upcoming break away from Europe, and the move back to an imperial rather than metric system. Obviously this would affect all weights and measurements.

2) Zimbabwe’s cash cows are signal of desperation.

Piece regarding the new law changes that allow farmers in Zimbabwe to be able to use cows as deposits on loans.  Not only that, the banks have to accept them as collateral.

The first one is fake. It comes from the British based satirical website www.newsbiscuit.com, written by the Throngsman on April 16th 2017.  From the day after, April 17th, the second article quoted came from the respected Financial Times through its FT View column.  It is a very in-depth article on the use of farming equipment throughout Africa for generating collateral for farmers at banks.  It continues on to explain why this is a bad thing for Zimbabwe’s farmers and the country’s economy as a whole.

From just the two headlines, it is possible to see where, if you do not read the article fully and question the source, somethings can get into the public domain and be believed.

This “fake news” on social media and its effects are not new though.  Social media is just the new medium to be used.  One of the earliest reports of the effects of fake news goes back to 1814.  Lord Cochrane made up and printed the story that Napoleon had been killed and the Allied armies were heading for Paris.  Not surprisingly, the London stock market soared.  Also, not surprisingly, the said Lord was making a very tidy profit when selling £1.1million of government stocks.  Also, even more surprisingly, he wasn’t even a Lord.  Less surprisingly, he got caught and did a spell at His Majesty’s Pleasure.

Fake or real, just make sure that you know about the source and its possible balance.  This is important if you are reading financial news about your investments.  Specifically if your investment horizons are longer term.  The trick is not to react to the news.  Just filter out the noise and stay on track with your originals goals and expectations.

Paul McLardie is a partner at Total Wealth Management. Contact him at Paul.mclardie@t-wm.com .