Absolutely, Scott. And the OP said as much... "I can accept these picutres as a compromise when the shot could not be taken otherwise. But often this is not the case. Very often."
And of course they are not out to appease the OP's (or my) sense of aesthetics. But most serious photojournalists certainly photograph with aesthetics in mind, at least the good ones.
A quick look at the history of photojournalism shows that great images can be made without ultrawide lenses, and is still being done so today.