Newspaper editors have a tendency to fire and get fired a lot, so stick 700 in a room together and you end up with much twittering and lollygagging about who's up, who's down and listen, have you thought about writing editorials in San Jose, Calif. maybe?

Which gives you the basics of an opening reception for the American Society of Newpaper Editors' annual convention last night. Everybody piled into the Washington Hilton's mamoth ballroom, sped for the bar, then got down to the good stuff. Like this:

"Did you hear about Jon Katz?" Timothy Leland of the Boston Globe was saying. "I'm here to see if he's looking for another job."

"Me?" said Katz, the managing editor of the Baltimore News American who located in a nearby huddle. "Not yet. But it's only the first day."

Katz, as it turned out, was engaging in talk of reporter hiring with F. Gilbert Spencer, the editor of the Philadelphia Daily News. This was another frequently occurring conversation, and in the case of Katz and Spencer, the highlight came when Spencer said, "I wanted her so bad, I could taste it.

He was referring to someone he termed a "brilliant young Harvard woman" he wanted to hire but didn't have a place for. So instead, he was generously passing her name on to Katz. This is an example of the oldboy network at work.

There were others who came to the reception and convention because it sure beats staying home. Particularly when home is Corpus Christi, Tex.

"It's easy for editors in places like Corpus Christi to get very withdrawn," explained Robert Rhodes of the Corpus Christi Caller and Times. "This is basically getting out of your own territory, taking a deep breath and seeing what some of the other people are doing."

What some of the other people were doing, for two busy hours, was either nourishing themselves for the strenuous days ahead or replenishing themselves after the one just part. The days ahead hold speeches by Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, John Anderson and Zbigniew Brezinski; the one past consisted of George Bush and a seminar on what do about employes with marriage and drinking problems.

The solution, sighed Boston Globe editor Thomas Winship, is "a trained chaplain." Winship is vice-president of the 800-member organization and is expected to be elected the new president today.

The reception went a good half-hour beyond the official closing time, something not wholly ordinary at this hotel full of reception after starchy reception. But then, there were hardly any lawyers spotted.

Whoops. Except for Bruce Sanford, who represents UPI, Scripps Howard and some other folks. "Very lively bunch," he said of editors. You could tell Sanford wasn't one because he had on a dark pin-striped suit, crisp white shirt and gold collar pin. The editors, generally, were in rumples.