Shutdown benefits cable news networks

NEW YORK – The federal government shutdown damaged the reputations of Washington politicians but proved good business for the cable television news networks – and taught some reporters new benefits of virtually instant communications.

CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC saw their viewership increase during the 16-day partial shutdown, peaking at more than five million Wednesday evening when Congress passed a compromise bill to put the government back online.

“It was a drama,” said CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash, who logged many hours of airtime along with Kelly O’Donnell of NBC News and Mike Emanuel of Fox. “Whenever there’s a drama, people are interested.”

The news networks brought their traditional hallmarks of crisis coverage to the political machinations, including “countdown clocks” that marked each second closer to a debt limit deadline.