Readers of the National Journal have come to expect solid reporting, a little flair (just a little, mind you) and a reputation for editorial independence from advertisers that ranges between excellent and ideal. So it came as something of a shock when the latest issue arrived with a letter from Publisher John Fox Sullivan making a pitch for General Motors as a defense contractor.

Sullivan wrote in his memo to readers: "Recently, General Motors held a news briefing in Washington, D.C., which I attended, to announce its commitment to the Department of Defense and the improved capabilities available from General Motors as a multi-faceted contractor." He noted that the enclosed brochure detailed how recent changes "have enhanced {the company's} ability to better serve their customers. I trust you will find their story to be of interest."

Within hours after the letter began reaching the Journal's 5,000 subscribers -- members of Congress, journalists, lawyers, lobbyists and people interested in public affairs -- Sullivan began hearing complaints. And this week he decided that readers will get another letter -- an apology.

"I am unhappy that I did it," Sullivan said yesterday. "It was inappropriate for us. That has been said to our staff -- we are not going to do such a thing again."

Sullivan noted that most other news organizations reprint advertising and send it out, sometimes to members of Congress, for example. But he said he now believes such a letter was out of place for the Journal.

Sullivan said last week he was asked to write the letter by the advertising agency that represents GM, and the Journal's advertising staff recommended it. He said GM has been a significant advertiser in the magazine.

Sullivan later decided the letter was not in keeping with the Journal's track record, which has included such items as a list of the best and the worst trade associations and has lost the Journal some important advertisers whose lobbying arms were named among the latter.

"Things like this memo are done by people in various ways," Sullivan said. "Some are appropriate and some are not, and this was not appropriate for this magazine or for me personally."

Hahn's Hometown Tabloid For those who are confused about the difference between the Newsday that appears on Long Island and the version that appears in Manhattan, Sunday's papers provided a telling lesson.

The banner on Long Island was "Trigger Fingers Flex in Gulf," with a story about the tense situation in the Middle East.

But New Yorkers were treated to three color photos of Jessica Hahn with a headline that shouted: "She is Reaping a Bitter Harvest." Hahn, as anybody interested in her story could explain, is from Long Island.

Quotes After the Beep Friends of Don Forst, editor of New York Newsday, are upset about a recent "Press Clips" column by Geoffrey Stokes in The Village Voice. It seems that Forst was unhappy about an earlier column by Stokes and called up to complain. When he got an answering machine, Forst was undeterred. He complained after the beep.

Forst's friends aren't so much concerned about what Forst said or even that Stokes was able to print a little profanity in The Voice. The problem was that this seemed to be a new peril in the bewildering world of modern technology. Said one New Yorker: "What are you supposed to do now, call up a machine and say, 'This is off the record'?"

True Facts Collectors of the wit and wisdom of Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham have another keeper. At a news conference last week, when the issue turned to a fund-raising letter, one reporter from The Arizona Republic, Sam Stanton, said: "Governor, we've gotten several different stories here. Can you tell us what the true version is?"

Mecham, who has been at odds with various reporters and who is the object of a recall effort in his state, heatedly accused Stanton of questioning his integrity, and Stanton vigorously denied it. Then Mecham added, without a smile or even an inkling of irony: "Don't ever ask me for a true statement again.