I certainly agree about the usefulness of TTL-flash for macrophotography "in the field" and usefulness of autofocus for people having sight defects.
As useful as it is in the field, also TTL flash tends to "revert to grey" and in a studio situation a known setup or incident light metering certainly works better than automatism. Automatism is intrinsically "second-choice" for its inescapable limits such as the light meter not knowing which is the reflectivity of the subject, or the background being markedly darker or brighter than the subject.
This paves the way for mistakes which are avoided with manual metering. The only "price" to pay is the time it takes, which is not much, but sometimes is simply not available. Hence my general idea: when you have time, manual metering is always more reliable. Automatism works well when there is no time for manual metering.
Yes many, many years ago 4x5, and later MF, were used for news (I am thinking about the scene in La dolce vita when Ms Steiner understands something awful happened in seeing the paparazzi taking her picture in the road, and they all had either LF or MF cameras) and even before LF camera were used for news as well but those times are since long past.
When working with B&W negative there is ample room for exposure mistakes (avoiding underexposure) and I suppose paparazzi of the time greatly exploited the film quality. They really did not need accurate exposure for that kind of work.
Focusing was not a problem, the paparazzi would only take pictures at a certain "fixed" distance (probably around 2 meters). I think they did not focus at all for paparazzi-style work. When they used flash, they used bulb flashes which gave them a huge amount of light (again: close aperture, zone focusing).
The large format advantage for news I imagine was that the photographer could use very sensitive film (for the time) therefore closing the aperture enough so as to be able to prefocus by sight with acceptable results.
It's interesting that war photographers used mainly 135 or maybe Mf at the end of the fifties while news photographers used LF and some of them MF, but probably none of them used 135.