I don't know how those photo-journalists get their wonderful photos.
While I'm not an experienced PJ myself, I have a slight inkling of an idea how this happens:
1) They often have quite a bit of experience.
2) They take a lot of pictures, every time.
3) They often use 1-series cameras (or similar Nikons), and take advantage of the quicker, more precise AF and the better response time.
the 1 series is not good for me. I'm not a disciplined photographer (most of you are extremely disciplined) and I prefer holding the camera rather than using a tripod. the 1 series cameras are far too heavy to hold in position while waiting for a bird to appear nearby. and they're expensive!!!
That's a shame, because e.g. the 1D MkII is really nice for taking pictures; I've tried one on three different occasions, and the last time I borrowed it for two days.*
The response time is clearly superior to that of the 20D (which I own); the focusing is definitely more accurate and quicker to boot.
The downside is that the user interface is a bit more clunky; my guess is that this is partially due to reduce the mechanical complexity for the dust/moisture seals, and partially because of tradition.
The graphical menu system's user interface is awful, but you'll learn to live with it.
Sure, it's a heavy camera, at twice the weight of the 20D, but you'll develop the muscles , and it helps keeping the monster steady for that crisp bird shot.
* The reason I don't own one yet, is that I'm waiting for Photokina to see what Canon comes up with next.