From the moment Steve Weinberg applied to the National Press Foundation for a grant that would help him finish his book, there was unanimous agreement among members of the foundation's board that its answer would have to be "Yes."

The unanimity was noteworthy because the foundation never has enough money to do all the things that need doing. The National Press Foundation is a nonprofit organization that promotes quality and opportunity in all phases of journalism. It offers prizes for excellence; sponsors seminars and workshops; funds fellowships for research, advanced study and special projects; works diligently for Freedom of Information and the First Amendment; underwrites useful publications related to journalism; and does what it can to safeguard the right of the public to know what an informed electorate needs to know.

Our colleagues in the National Press Club are 5,000 strong and finance their activities by levying dues. The National Press Foundation, on the other hand, depends upon voluntary contributions from its own board and from the public.There is never enough money to permit the luxury of saying "Yes" to all the public-interest projects that deserve an affirmative answer.

Nevertheless, Steve Weinberg's idea was a natural. He wanted to finish a book titled, "Trade Secrets of Washington Journalists."

We recognized its value at once. We have one banker and one lawyer on our board, but the rest of us are working reporters and editors (or at least we were all active newsmen until Walter Cronkite retired).

We recognized that although each journalist develops his own contacts and his own techniques for ferreting out the news, none of us knows the inner workings of all the facets of government. All of us have learned a little bit about separate portions of the Washington labyrinth, but none of us can make his way through the entire maze with certainty.

So it was clear that if Steve could cover the entire spectrum he'd be doing a great service for all of us, especially for reporters who are newly assigned to Washington each year and must begin from scratch.

The money was appropriated, Steve wrote his book and Cronkite contributed a foreword to it. The book was published by Acropolis Books, Ltd., a Washington firm, and is now available at dozens of Washington area book stores -- $12.50 in hard cover, $7.95 in paperback.

Ordinarily, I would not write about a book written for a special trade or profession. However, after I read the finished product it struck me that Steve's book was written as much for the lay public as for journalists.

Every American has an interest in knowing how his government works, or fails to work. The reporter's narrow interest is based on his profession. But the public's interest is of wider range because every voter needs to know how his government really works if he is to cast an intelligent ballot.

As a bonus, "Trade Secrets of Washington Journalists" will give its readers a better understanding of news and newsmen, as well as their government.

P.S.: If anything I have written here moves you to make a contribution of any size to the National Press Foundation, be advised that your gift will be gratefully received and will be fully tax-deductible. Our mailing address is: National Press Foundation, National Press Building, Washington, D.C, 20045. Thank you.