About 100 members of the Washington Press Club last night officially declared the news season open. They gathered at the Hyatt Regency to swear in their new president and to eat, drink and dance, of course.

The veteran journalists greeted old friends, discussed the day's bleak and shocking news and their more fondly remembered summer vacations, and laid into the tables heaped with chicken tempura, shrimp and heaps of fresh fruit like a school of piranha.

"Seems like the whole week is a media event," said NBC News writer/producer Audrey Dillman about the profusion of parties on the Hill and elsewhere.

Before new WPC president Miles Benson, congressional correspondent for Newhouse News Service, received the traditional Cora Rigby silver bowl from outgoing president Carol Richards of Gannett News Service, he was subjected to an inaugural ceremony.

There he stood, sandwiched between Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), senior and junior senators respectively, who made Benson "the object of their swearing." Looming over the beaming Benson, Moynihan delivered a letter-perfect imitation of Sen. Sam Ervin at the Watergate hearings. "Do you swear to uphold the ideals of the Washington Press Club and to follow the words of Adlai Stevenson and separate the wheat from the chaff -- and print the chaff?"

"I do, at this time," deadpanned Benson.

"Answer the question," snapped Moynihan, to loud laughter.

"You know, Miles Benson is only our third male president," said Gloria Ohliger, who was women's editor for the old Washington Daily News and is now a public affairs consultant. "It means they're showing their liberalism," said Dorothy Newman, who is in embassy real estate, with a laugh. "We're waiting for UPI White House reporter Helen Thomas," she added. "We're all going out to dinner when she gets here. She's still at the White House, covering the assassination in Lebanon."