Part of a journalist's job is to remain impartial despite building professional and personal relationships with those they cover. This is because in order to cover an industry you have to be deeply interested in that industry to begin with. And with that will come personal relationships with those you cover.
Obviously there are limits to what's acceptable, and sometimes lines are slightly blurred, but it's not up to the audience to decide when a line is crossed, it's up to the journalist's editor. And if the Audience doesn't trust the editor to do their job then that's where the problem lies.
Going straight after writers seems to stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of what the writers are suppose to do. What a journalist is. They're a viewport. They're a window. And the story is suppose to be filtered through them. It's up to them to stay meaningful objective, but that doesn't mean their writing isn't a subjective piece of work.