The New York Daily News screamed "PANIC!" in 3 1/2-inch type on its front page. The New York Post went for "CRASH!" in 4 1/2-inch letters. Readers of The Miami Herald, many of whom are old enough to remember the Great Depression, were met with the grim and perhaps overstated headline "MARKET COLLAPSES."

And The Wall Street Journal used what that paper's historians believe is the first two-column headline since Jan. 14, 1952, when Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the newspaper an exclusive interview saying that he had no plans to run for the presidency. (He was elected the following November.)

The news from Wall Street, in fact, has been so unsettling that most news organizations bumped the story on the U.S. shelling of Iranian oil platforms down to the level of a routine front-page story.

Although CBS and ABC led their evening news programs Monday with both Wall Street and the Persian Gulf -- in ABC's case in part because it had good film of the shattered platforms -- NBC stuck with the stock market.

In fact, "NBC Nightly News" did not get to the retaliatory bombing until just before the first commercial -- about a third of the way into the broadcast. The Washington Post placed the story near the bottom of the front page -- a position known in the trade as being "below the fold."

But almost everywhere a possible new depression outplayed a potential war.

"Maybe a lot of people thought that these {military} actions were not that important," said Lars Erik Nelson, Washington bureau chief of the New York Daily News, noting that exploding two platforms was not much of a military coup for the Navy. "This was like slapping at mosquitoes."

Newspapers pulled out the big scare words about what was happening on Wall Street. One reason may be that in 1929, many U.S. newspapers did their best to soft-pedal the hard news. Stories meant to be calming then look ridiculous now.

As Wall Street Journal Deputy Managing Editor Paul E. Steiger said yesterday, "What we're trying to do is avoid exacerbating fears but also avoid sugarcoating facts."

Yesterday's New York Times, for example, had a story on the front page whose headline asked, "Does 1987 Equal 1929?"

The New York Post, in a front-page story in oversize type, proclaimed that "the Reagan Boom" is over.

The contrast with 1929 is striking. On Oct. 30, 1929, the day after the big crash, The Wall Street Journal's lead story carried the headline "Stocks Steady After Decline." The New York Times that day said that leaders see "Fear Waning" and that in spite of the collapse a "Rally at Close Cheers Brokers; Bankers Optimistic . . ."

The Pentagon Plays Pool Since the Reagan administration ordered U.S. soldiers to invade Grenada and did not allow reporters to hit the beach with them, correspondents and Pentagon officials have been trying to figure out a better way for both to do their jobs.

Almost four years ago the Sidle Commission decided that the Pentagon should amass a pool of reporters to cover war zones, and several exercises since then have gone better than expected.

With the bombing of the oil platforms this week, however, some journalists are complaining that this much-vaunted Pentagon press pool is more policy than reality. Reporters waiting to take part in the action were left behind when the platforms were bombed; the Pentagon has said that there was not enough time.

"It was a short-fuse operation," said Pentagon spokesman Fred Hoffman.

Such explanations do not sound convincing to some news organizations whose reporters feel that they are invited to rehearse and discouraged from the real thing.

"The whole thing is a sham; the Pentagon pool coverage is a sham," fumed Ron Nessen, former press secretary to President Ford and now vice president for news at the Mutual Broadcasting System.

Hoffman, who said he had eight pool "deployments" in the Persian Gulf with another coming soon, said, "With a very few exceptions, I have had nothing but expressions of satisfaction."

Nessen recently protested the way the pool had been working. In his letter to the Pentagon, he included a memo from the radio pool reporter, Jesse Schulman in Bahrain. Schulman said the timing of the pool activation "suggests but doesn't prove that pool activation depends on political decisions made in Washington, and suggests also we are becoming accomplices in managed news coverage."

Schulman and others have informed their news organizations that they have been told that the Pentagon is leaving the decisions up to the local U.S. military authorities. And these local commanders often prefer not to worry about camera crews, several journalists involved said yesterday.

In an Associated Press dispatch from Manama, Bahrain, Richard Pyle wrote Monday that "while U.S. Navy destroyers shelled two Iranian oil platforms yesterday in the Persian Gulf, members of a news pool organized by the Pentagon sat in a hotel with nothing to do."

Journalists are also upset that after U.S. helicopters sank an Iranian speedboat and disabled two others on Oct. 8, the Navy later provided four grainy photos, some edited to remove background features.

Hoffman said Washington, not the field commanders, was making the decisions about the pools and added, "Don't you think I would have liked to have the pool out taking the pictures of the guns going off and hitting the targets? From that standpoint, it would have been a real plus."