But I agree that journalists in particular and everyone else in general need to do a better job of highlighting lead authors in addition to or instead of senior authors since they are usually at an earlier career stage that would benefit from the publicity.
As a reader, I disagree. If I care about the work enough to care about that, I can find the paper.
But I would have been bothered if I had taken the time to provide some quotes and none were included in the published article. Regardless, your friend can probably put "media mentions" or something like that on their resume.
 Had NYT, BBC, etc. articles written about a paper
Flying fishes - Exocoetidae