With the approval of the federal bankruptcy court, Pulitzer Publishing Co. of St. Louis and Indian Head Inc. of New York have taken over the ailing States News Service and say they plan to expand the operation.

The two firms agreed to pay $10,000 cash and provide up to $50,000 in operating capital to keep alive States, which acts as the Washington bureau for about 80 newspapers.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Roger Whelan approved the transaction earlier this week, overruling objections from some creditors of States who said the sale would leave little chance that debts of more than $650,000 would ever be paid.

The news service and its founder, Leland J. Schwartz, filed a bankruptcy petition last month and simultaneously asked the bankruptcy court to permit Pulitzer and Indian Head to take over the operation.

The new owners said they plan to provide States News Service stories to subscribers to the computerized information services now operated by Indian Head. They also plan to offer news services to broadcast and cable TV operations as well as newspapers.

States was taken over by two subsidiaries of Pulitzer, which publishes the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and Indian Head, a diversified conglomerate. In other media developments:

James R. Whalen, editor and vice president of the Sacramento Union, has resigned from the California newspaper to become publisher and editor of a new Washington newspaper planned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The church, which publishes the New York News World, has announced plans for a new daily to be called Washington Times.

National Public Radio's board voted to call off merger talks with the financially troubled United Press International news service, 95 percent of which is owned by E. W. Scripps Co. Officials of Scripps said talks on selling UPI have been held with other organizations.