It was an editorial photo, attached to a news story. It was 100% wrong and journalistically unethical to edit it in any way. The original photo can be cropped, sharpened, color-corrected and adjusted for brightness and contrast, but that’s it. If the photo editor or author has a problem with the original photo, then don’t use it. But never, ever change it to the degree that you are essentially changing the story it tells.