I think the reality that the viewer views the image is different to the truth and reality that is necessarily in the image. People still tend to believe the photograph as real and truthful, even if in some cases the image shows an unrealistic scenario.
With advent of digital technology it is becoming harder to tell if an image is showing reality or not. This also changes how we define reality within an image as we can no longer rely on being presented with what the camera captures, but potentially a manipulation.
Context also plays a big part in how the viewer may perceive whether an image is real, or put another way may allow the context to influence their expectation of reality. In a newspaper as with the written content one expects images to show reality, or at least a truthful representation of reality.
It was interesting in the wake of the Steve McCurry controversy, where it was found out that images had been digitally altered, in some cases heavily. McCurry was quick to point out the context claiming that whilst he was operating as a photojournalist the images were not manipulated, but now that he considers himself a fine art photographer the manipulation is deemed acceptable (Time, 2018). However how does this translate to the viewer?
If an image appears in a newspaper it would be given much more weight to the realism of the image. However there have been a number of occasions when images used in newspapers have been proven to be faked or manipulated. The image above was one of the earliest forms of fakery, the image of the Loch Ness monster appeared in the Daily Mail in 1934, instantly giving the image authenticity to the readers.
In my own practice for the MA i am not too concerned with image manipulation beyond the use of Black and White, however the images are not necessarily present as realism or part of a real narrative, but potentially more as fiction. Whilst continuing to work as a photojournalist there is an ethical responsibility to portray reality and authenticity, and the viewer is relying on me to present it in such a way.