U.S. News & World Report this week proved that raiding is not a lost art.

In one adventuresome sweep into the halls of Newsweek, U.S. News Editor David Gergen and Editor in Chief Mortimer B. Zuckerman have lured away three of the competition's star staffers.

As announced by Gergen yesterday, Newsweek's defections were: Michael Ruby, who has been assistant managing editor; Merrill Sheils, a senior editor and writer, who is also Ruby's fiance'e; and Gloria Borger, the magazine's Capitol Hill reporter.

All will have loftier titles at U.S. News and, sources said, they will also earn "big bucks."

Ruby, who had been the fourth-ranking news executive at Newsweek, will be second in command at U.S. News, under Gergen.

Sheils, considered one of the most graceful Newsweek writers, will be what one U.S. News insider called "a sort of superwriter." And Borger moves from reporter to assistant managing editor -- which allows her to report, write and participate in decisions about national news.

"It speaks well of them that they've chosen very good people, and it's no question it's a loss," said Morton Kondracke, Newsweek's Washington bureau chief.

Kondracke, who recently lost diplomatic correspondent John Walcott to The Wall Street Journal, said he had started looking for replacements. "Let the applications flow," he said, laughing.

Newsweek Editor in Chief Richard M. Smith said he was particularly chagrined about Ruby's departure because "he's a good friend and a good man." But Smith added, "I wish him well in a very challenging new job."

Ruby said he had agonized about leaving Newsweek after 15 years, especially because of his relationship with Smith. "He and I, as well as being colleagues, are just damn good friends," Ruby said.

Gergen yesterday described the moves as part of his plan to get "the best possible team of journalists we can find in the country."

Gergen said he had also been interviewing people from the newly defunct Science 86 magazine and has already hired Avery Comarow as a new assistant managing editor for science, medicine and environmental issues.

U.S. News now seems to have a long list of people with high-sounding titles. To date, there are three managing editors, seven assistant managing editors, three deputy managing editors and three senior deputy editors.

Some at U.S. News said the changes appear to be part of an effort by Gergen to overhaul the staff put together by Shelby Coffey III, who left in January. Because of what one source called "encrustations" of editors at various levels at the magazine, names and titles may change in the next few weeks, the sources said.

Is Gergen through trying to bring Newsweek staffers aboard?

"Newsweek continues to have plenty of talent," he said cryptically. "So does U.S. News." The Two-Penny Look

It was a monumental joke, but there are those at USA Today who apparently don't think it was very funny.

As journalists and visitors arrived one day last week at the Gannett Co. newspaper offices in Rosslyn, they found that the new bronze bust of USA Today founder Allen H. Neuharth looked oddly like the comic strip character Little Orphan Annie.

Over the Gannett chairman's eyes someone had glued -- Super Glued, as it turned out -- two USA pennies. Some reports of the defacing said that maintenance men had to carefully chisel the coins off the Neuharth sculpture.

The huge bust, which has also sported at least one hat since it appeared about six weeks ago, has been nicknamed "The Shrine" by Gannett reporters. Wrongheaded Story

New York Times readers in Washington were startled by a headline in their Wednesday paper that said: "How Mexico Is Taking the Fun out of Journalism."

The story wasn't about how authorities had stopped food fights on press buses. It was about how journalists are being gunned down, beaten up and generally harassed by those who don't like their stories.

At The Times, the headline was yanked after the first edition. The problem, they said, was that foreign-news staffers were distracted over what was happening to their Peking correspondent John F. Burns. Burns was being expelled from China that evening and Executive Editor A.M. Rosenthal and Foreign Editor Warren Hoge were in Peking trying to deal with the problem.

Said one editor: "Someone was asleep at the switch."

Burns, who was at first charged with espionage for traveling in an unauthorized area, had written a travel piece on China that appeared in Sunday's Times. Burns' story said in part, "China has opened up once more to exploration, with the result that an adventurous traveler can see many things that two generations of Westerners have experienced only from books."