Sometime, a decade or more past, Leica became the equivalent of Louis Vuitton or Rolex. It's a luxury item. Like a LV bag, is still a really well-made tool, but functionality is only secondary. The actual capabilities are less important than the ideas of craftsmanship and exclusivity.
A previous version of this article was accompanied
by a picture of Emmy Rossum holding what was
incorrectly identified as a Leica rangefinder. It
was, in fact, a Fuji digital camera whose design
was inspired by classic rangefinders such as the
From Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Winogrand, Friedlander, Nachtwey, etc. Lots of up and coming photographers want to imitate the masters of the past and present and see they use Leicas --so even though photography has changed to them the manufacturer of choice remains Leica, if they can afford it. So it's a bit of traditionalism.
Actually only the history of the camera and the company is revered by pros. The camera not so much, and hasn't been for at least 2-3 decades.
And the people you describe were mostly "art photographers" and high-end story photographers for LIFE magazine, NG and such, not the typical (99.99%) of photojournalists and photographers in the field.