I would like to voice my opinion that the latest update, which I suspect is the Panda/Penguin softening, is good for SERPs and good for quality content.
I have seen a recovery in many of our pages. We were hit hard by Panda/Penguin, and we have always hired professional writers, always professionally researched and edited our content, always maintained editorial independence, and never paid a penny for a link (or traded, or anything like that).
We had became honestly quite despondent and at times cynical, and I was 99% sure our site was hit due to negative SEO.
If anything, my guess is that the softening has removed the penalty for sites that never should have been penalized in the first place, maybe the site had optimized internal linking structure, headlines and titles, but nothing dishonest or against guidelines, then got buried by cynical, black-hat competitors who are happy to tank small businesses for money.
This update gives me more optimism. I think the environment had become a really dark time for publishing when negative SEO could destroy honest work.
Major publications, and experienced, professional writers and journalists don't just come out of nowhere -- in order to keep the pipeline full for future writers, we need honest small papers and small-to-medium web publishers to thrive and keep hiring, giving experience and exploring new beats.
Ideally, we'll know we've turned a corner when newspapers like the NYTimes are building informational sites like About.com, not selling them to private equity firms, and when venture capitalists are interested when they hear a website wants to hire great people to create great, fresh content. We're not there yet, but in my opinion, the panda softening is a helpful first step.
Please keep helping small publishers! Please keep stopping negative SEO from ruining honest businesses!