Yes agree that there is a supposed to be a distinct difference between journalism and PR. Unfortunately it’s quite porous and it’s no surprise that journalists invariably leave journalism to go into PR, where it’s also better paid. I don’t have an answer other than journalism maintaining its integrity, so there is distance between what scions may view as having the public in mind whatever the consequences and knowing that their copy could alienate someone with a financial interest in their business.
There’s a much lengthier conversation here which Guardian writer Nick Davies explains in his book Flat Earth. The ongoing conflict between journalism as pure and serving the public and being constrained by benefactors e.g. Corporates. It’s been a perennial concern. NBC’s deal with Camel cigarettes in the 50s makes for a good read.
Re: your last point I see you studied Astrophysics et languages. I remain humble in my response as a science grad too (Chemistry and Maths). When I entered journalism in the 80s, I really was looking for the square root. Sometimes it was there, sometimes it wasn’t. I deduced that some things are factual and replicable, others ( writing, social sciences journalism) rely on the confrontation of appearances and persistent intervention of what humans are telling me. Thanks again for the creative pinging.