States News Service, which has been seeking a buyer for more than two years, is negotiating a potential takeover by the Pulitzer Publishing Co. of St. Louis and Indianhead Corp., a New York conglomerate.

Pulitzer publishes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, while Indianhead's highly diversified operations include publishing newsletters and distributing details of the Federal Register and other official publications to specialized markets.

With a staff of about 20 reporters, States News Service acts as the Washington bureau for a large number of small newspapers. States' founder Leland Schwartz told his staff yesterday about the prospects of a deal with Pulitzer and Indianhead, but declined to respond to inquiries about the transaction.

Post-Dispatch Managing Editor David Lipman confirmed that Pulitzer has held discussions with States, but said it would be "premature" to talk about them. "We have no comment to make on that at this time," he added.

Larry Clark, Indianhead's director of corporate communications, said the privately owned conglomerate does not comment on potential acquisitions as a matter of policy.

Like many other publishing companies, both Pulitzer and Indianhead are exploring new business opportunities in electronic communications. Indianhead's Information Technology Group and Information Handling Systems' division provide computer access to the Federal Register, Internal Revenue Service publications and other government documents.