They're evil, but not evil geniuses (that is not to say that they are incapable of inflicting great damage, just that they'll do it more by knocking over the chessboard than by planning the checkmate 57 moves ahead). And as Pierce says, this kind of thing is even dumber when it comes from the people whose job it is to decide what is important and who are quite capable of not running after the soccer ball every time it has been kicked.
However, if the distraction argument is true, then it is a massive dereliction of duty on the part of the members of the media who make it true. In essence, coming from anyone in this business, the distraction argument denies that the media has any agency in what it covers. If you are an editor—or a reporter—and you decide that a story is a shiny object, then don't cover it. Or, at the very least, don't emphasize it. The decision by the elite political media to make Hillary Rodham Clinton's email server a central issue in the campaign was a deliberate choice. It wasn't forced on them by anyone or anything. If you can choose to emphasize something, you can choose not to do that. If you can choose to concentrate on HRC's email practices, you can choose not to concentrate on what you judge to be obvious diversions from the White House.