On Oct. 9, 2023, CNN broadcast a video of its chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, and members of her team moving quickly along a roadside near the Israel-Gaza border. Moments later, the team was seen lying down on the ground during what was described as a "massive barrage of rockets."
An unidentified man with Ward's team then mentioned that the rockets were coming from Israel's Iron Dome. "That's the Iron Dome," he said, reassuring Ward and the crew of their safety.
This genuine video was aired on CNN's cable channel and was also reposted to its online accounts, including on YouTube.
However, after this video became available online, it was manipulated by a user who added an audio track of what sounded like someone pretending to be an acting coach and telling Ward and other members of her team what to do.
The clip with the added audio track of the purported acting coach was posted by an account named The Quartering.
"CNN Busted FAKING Attack In Israel For The Camera!," The Quartering posted on X.
The manipulated video was then reposted by other accounts and has since been viewed millions of times, with many users replying with words that showed they believed the audio was genuine.
Twitter owner Elon Musk even responded to one of the posts from The Quartering with a laughing with tears emoji.
In at least one subsequent repost of the video from The Quartering, the end of the clip read, "This is a meme. Recommended IQ 10 or higher."
The Quartering also posted as a reply on X, "Yes of course the voice over isn't real but the fake acting IS real."
A YouTube video posted by The Quartering also promoted the false claim that Ward and the other members of her team, who were all risking their lives to report from the warzone, were acting for the camera, apparently regardless of the fake audio that had been added. No credible evidence was provided to support the claim that they were acting. Still, users who commented under the YouTube video seemed to believe it anyway.
It's possible that these commenters were experiencing a form of what's known as online disinhibition effect – a state of acting out differently and more confident behind the screen of a device than someone would during an in-person interaction.
After all, Ward and her team believed they were possibly in real danger during the moments depicted in the video. Like the commenters, journalists are also real human beings with families and friends.
On the day after CNN posted the original video with Ward and her team ducking for cover, the publisher posted another video of Ward and the company's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, who were both reporting from the warzone.
In 2011, Robertson's wife, Margaret, wrote in regard to his travel that his younger daughter, Nicky, "sometimes puts a small toy in his knapsack, to keep him company on these long trips away from home." At the time, she added, "Older daughter Lowrie is more pragmatic now."
Another example of a reporter with a team who are all putting themselves in harm's way in the Israel-Hamas war is NBC News' chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.
Like the videos with Ward and Robertson, a video from Oct. 9 featuring Engel and his team depicted a dangerous scene involving mortar fire.
Engel is also a parent who is spending time away from his family to risk his life reporting from a warzone. Engel and his wife, Mary Forrest, have one young son named Theo who was born in 2019. The Engels lost their eldest son Henry in August 2022. He died after battling a rare genetic neurological disorder called Rett syndrome.
Engel wrote, "To parents with typically developing children, a little 'Dada' may not seem like a big deal. But for me it was a validation, an acknowledgement that he’s in there, knows me, knows that his mother and I are forces for good in his life, and above all, that he loves us."