By late yesterday, some members of the Washington bureau of The New York Times were calling it "bloody Wednesday."

During the day, Times executives informed five of about 50 Washington reporters that they were being moved out of the bureau. Four were offered jobs in New York, which several here viewed as a barely camouflaged invitation to walk out the front door.

The fifth, Ben A. Franklin, 60, who has covered this region and, most recently, such events as the trial of Michael Deaver for the Times, was reportedly told that instead of moving to New York, he could take early retirement.

The four, who reportedly are being asked to move to metropolitan, culture or business staffs in New York, are: Jonathan Fuerbringer, who had been covering Congress; Neil Lewis, a diplomatic correspondent; Wayne King, who has been covering politics; and Irvin Molotsky, who was described by a fellow Times reporter as "a utility infielder -- the kind of guy who could write about anything."

For Fuerbringer and Lewis the potential moves to New York create special problems, according to sources at the paper. Lewis' wife is a tenured law professor at George Washington University, and Fuerbringer's wife Johanna McGeary is Time magazine's bureau chief in Jerusalem.

King, who was a Houston correspondent known for his colorful writing and good reporting on such matters as the neo-Nazi movement in the West before coming to Washington, was in Arizona when he learned of his transfer by phone, several Times employees said.

All those contacted in the Washington bureau asked that their names not be used.

One Times staffer reached yesterday said that the bureau was "stunned and shocked" at the changes, and another described morale as being "very down" on the eve of a move to new quarters at the Army Navy Building on I Street. One compared it to the "bloodletting scene in 'Broadcast News,' " which depicts a network reducing its staff in a Washington bureau.

Some bureau staffers said they were baffled by the changes. There have been recurring reports, sources said, that New York executives felt the Washington bureau was too big and slow, but bureau chief Craig Whitney had assured the staff several months ago over wine and cheese in his office that there was no "hit list."

Executive Editor Max Frankel also told the Washington staff a few weeks ago that he was pleased with the bureau's output and had "no bad news," the sources said.

Calls to Whitney and Warren Hoge, the assistant managing editor for administration who came to Washington to discuss the changes with those involved, did not bring a response yesterday. Nancy Nielsen, a Times spokesman in New York, said the paper's only official comment was the following: "The reason {for the moves} is that The Times is a newspaper with a large staff and changes and transfers take place all the time."

One bureau reporter said yesterday that moving to New York "helps get you more in touch with the paper," but others said they viewed it as a demotion at best. One of those being asked to accept a transfer reportedly told friends: "We're all replaceable. It's a good lesson to remember."

Don't Mention It Spy, the magazine that takes to heart the old idea that journalism should afflict the comfortable, regularly features "The Liz Smith Tote Board" -- which tallies the number of mentions the city's big names get in Smith's New York Daily News column.

One of the most frequently toted is developer and entrepreneur Donald Trump. In November, for example, he got five mentions (as did Elizabeth Taylor and Norman Mailer).

In the latest issue of The New Republic, however, Smith the Mentioner became Smith the Defender. She wrote to protest a comment in an earlier issue that Ivana Trump is "a vulgar social-climbing wife."

"This is really unfair because I believe it isn't true," Smith opined. "I know Mrs. Trump well and she is anything but vulgar or social climbing ... you have misjudged both the Trumps; neither has the slightest idea that they need to climb ... They aren't climbing. They have arrived!"

Back to you, Spy.