Don't question "the photo editor" in this case.
I would guess that the photo editing that goes on at the Bee these days does not much resemble what people would presume it does.
Yes, there is and should be zero tolerance for image manipulations in the (US) journalism world. However, lots of folks are fine with it in other types of photography. In fact, the reader comments at the Bee story suggest lots of people (readers, not journalists) are okay with it in this case, too.