Rosslyn-based Gannett Co. Inc. is eliminating most national news coverage by Gannett News Service and transferring responsibility for such stories to USA Today, its national daily newspaper.

Charles Overby, who took over as head of Gannett News Service last week, said yesterday the move is designed to help Gannett improve national news coverage in USA Today. Overby said Gannett News Service, which distributes articles to Gannett's 85 newspapers, will enhance its coverage of regional issues in the future.

"USA Today is upgrading its coverage nationally, and Gannett News Service is going to upgrade coverage regionally," Overby said. "People have been discussing this since USA Today started."

Overby said Gannett News Service has 10 reporters covering national news and that some might shift to regional news for GNS, and others might go to work for USA Today. However, Overby said decisions about who will cover national news in the future will be made by USA Today editors. One exception cited by Overby is Bill Ringle, who will continue to write about national affairs for GNS.

Overby said the changes will not affect the three-reporter Washington bureau of The Des Moines Register. He said no decision has been made about the Washington bureau of The Detroit News. Gannett recently agreed to acquire both newspapers as part of media deals that included its acquisition of Washington's WDVM-TV, Channel 9.