Today we are quite used to sensational stories in the press and many people treat the contents of some newspapers with a high degree of scepticism. During the Great War newspapers were the main source of news for the whole population. There was no TV or radio and in the early years of the war the British and German Governments used propaganda stories to justify the war and to persuade their citizens to do whatever was needed to win the war.The British press at this time was largely owned by men who were themselves part of the political establishment and they were keen to stay in favour with the Government ministers who were their friends and social contacts. In addition, journalists were not allowed to go to the front line and see for themselves what was happening. All the papers could do was print what the Government or the Army told them about, or what they learnt through gossip and story-telling.This story printed in the West Sussex County Times in 1915 is a typical example of a report which seems to have elements of truth but which does not bear scrutiny. REWARDS FOR SHOOTING BRITISH OFFICERSThe Manchester Guardian reports a remarkable speech delivered by Lieutenant General Sir Henry MacKinnon at a dinner in Manchester on Monday. General MacKinnon related a story told to him by a relative whose company in the trenches was much troubled by a sniper who was located with great difficulty. He was shot finally, and when his body was reached an order was found on him deputing him to snipe British Officers. He had in his book particulars showing that he had killed no fewer than 50 officers, and it was apparently a rule of the German War Office that a reward was given for each officer killed when the claim had been scrutinised and allowed. The sniper was required to state the exact position where the officer was killed, and give particulars about his regiment and so on. No claim was allowed until it had been tested by reference to the casualty lists in British newspapers and in the case of this particular sniper 25 claims were allowed, for each of which he had received a reward of 50 marks (£2 10s).British soldiers had more pressing concerns than recovering bodies of German soldiers — and the German authorities also had little time to spend pouring over the chaotic casualty lists which were sometimes printed in English newspapers. Snipers on both sides of the trench divide, were not picky about who they shot and would shoot anyone unwary enough to show themselves above the trench walls, and it is highly unlikely that the average sniper would be unable to identify a head as belonging to an officer, never mind the Regiment to which he belonged — so the modern day adage applied then — don't believe everything you read in the papers!