Harold Evans was incorrectly identified in yesterday's Style section. He is former editor of The Times and The Sunday Times of London and currently editorial director of U.S. News & World Report and editor in chief of The Atlantic Monthly Press.

Flash. Flash.

Those were the cameras going off for outgoing U.S. News & World Report editor Marvin Stone at his farewell party last night.

Flash! Flash! Flash! Flash! Flash! Flash! Flash!

Those were the cameras going off for U.S. News owner Mortimer Zuckerman and his escort Gloria Steinem.

Perhaps it is always thus when the old slide away and the new wish them goodbye. The line between sentimental and awkward, after all, is a fine one, and to avoid unpleasantness it behooves all participants to stick with 10 or 15 vague, gracious words.

Variant No. 1: "We've been changing, really, for 50 years in an evolutionary way," said Stone, who has worked at U.S. News for 25 years and expects to begin his new job as deputy director of the U.S. Information Agency next month.

Variant No. 2: "Basically, we're going to stay within the historical editorial boundaries of the magazine," said Zuckerman.

Variant No. 3: "We'll be staying within our traditional boundaries and any changes will be evolutionary in nature," said new U.S. News editor and former Washington Post national editor Shelby Coffey.

As one of the 400 guests said, U.S. News has gotten more press in the past two months than it did in the past 10 years. First there was the $164 million sale, then the periodic announcements of new appointments of lots of formerlies -- people like Harold Evans (most formerly of The Times of London, less formerly editorial director at U.S. News and now editor at Zuckerman's Atlantic Monthly Press) and James Glassman (formerly of The New Republic and now U.S. News' executive vice president), and Kathy Bushkin (formerly of the Gary Hart campaign and now a U.S. News vice president).

And then there was last night's party at the Departmental Auditorium where, while Stone stood at the door greeting arriving guests, administration people talked to other administration people and the sizable press contingent wore one mammoth wry expression and talked to themselves.

After working the room, USIA Director Charles Wick and Bob Gray of Gray and Co. ended up leaning against the piano.

"I love your publication's objective reporting on him," said a smiling Wick to a Washington Post reporter introducing herself to Gray.

He was referring to coverage of Gray and Co.'s Madrid office following an internal investigation marked by the departure of former Organization of American States secretary general Alejandro Orfila from the public relations firm. The Post has also recently reported on an employe's filing of "electronic press releases" from overseas that were used in newscasts.

"As far as I'm concerned," said Gray, "we've done everything that I think is appropriate to do. We did a full internal inquiry. We've taken all the appropriate action. I can't think of anything we could have done that would have shown better corporate citizenship."

And of the Madrid matter, Gray said, "It's a blip on the landscape."

Moving across last night's social landscape were tuxedos and long dresses containing people like Virginia Gov. Charles Robb, former U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, NBC's Roger Mudd, CBS' Robert Pierpoint, Sens. Ted Stevens and Pete Wilson. In between updates on the Georgetown-Villanova championship game, several guests stood to praise Stone, including Sen. Patrick Leahy, whom Stone called his "pet Democrat."

U.S. News is frequently called things like "right of center." Gloria Steinem is infrequently called things like that. Just to set it all straight, she said she had no plans to be spending more and more time in Washington, "unless Reagan is here less and less."

But with that out of the way, Steinem said she thought U.S. News had covered the women's movement fairly. "I think U.S. News has a tradition of reporting facts in a way the downside of which is dull and the upside is it's not condescending.

"But I don't think political labels necessarily apply. They certainly don't apply to issues I care about. Lee Grant once said to me she'd been married to one Marxist and one fascist, and neither one took the garbage out."