Mortimer S. Zuckerman, editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report, normally writes a page-long column that appears in the back of the magazine. This week he was particularly upset about news coverage of Israel, so he wrote two pages.

That posed a small problem for the art department, which normally runs a picture of the U.S. Capitol on the back page. Needing a small piece of art for the second page, the designers decided to use the Israeli flag: two blue stripes with a blue Star of David.

But, whoops, when the computerized instructions went to the printer, the flag came out with gold stripes and a gold star. U.S. News staffers say that pure chaos followed on Saturday when a printing manager suggested the flag didn't look right.

A stop-the-presses order -- which costs a lot more than in the Hildy Johnson days -- was placed by Zuckerman himself. But more than a half-million copies had already made their way out the door.

"Of course, you never seem to catch these things until it's late in the process," lamented Kathryn A. Bushkin, director of editorial administration.

Bushkin then wrote a letter to the Israeli ambassador in Washington to inform him of the mistake, explain that some magazines were caught and add, "We regret the error and extend our apologies."

Chancellor Hits a Soft Spot NBC commentator John Chancellor said yesterday he meant to provide a little levity when he introduced candidate Gary Hart at Sunday's Democratic candidate debate in New Hampshire. Chancellor said that Hart, who dropped out of the race in May and dropped back in last month, was giving political voice to the old question "Will you love me in December as you did in May?"

However, after he said it, there were groans from the audience. And when it was Hart's turn to speak, he chastised Chancellor for "the questionable taste of your introduction."

"Can you imagine?" said Chancellor. "I have been called tasteless by Gary Hart."

Chancellor added that his comment "certainly wasn't meant as a nasty crack." And after the debate, when he was virtually alone on stage, Hart came over and apologized. "He said, 'Listen, I'm sorry I said that,' " Chancellor added, "and I said, 'Okay, Gary,' and that was that."

The Journal's Ex-Execs Executives at The Wall Street Journal decided recently that there were too many executives at The Wall Street Journal.

So, in recent days, Managing Editor Norman Pearlstine moved a series of editors to less lofty posts on the Journal wall chart, raised their salaries and told them they were part of a plan to return administrators to the editorial staff.

One reason for the changes, Pearlstine said, is that The Journal is thinking about adding a section this year on markets and investments -- without adding staff.

The key changes include: One of two deputy managing editors, Stewart Pinkerton, becomes finance and investment editor in charge of the new pages. Charles N. Stabler, an assistant managing editor, will become an economics editor and writer. And Nancy Cardwell, who had been the highest-ranking woman as an assistant managing editor, will be deputy editor of special topical inserts in the paper. Glynn D. Mapes, former editor of features for the front page, becomes editor of the special supplements, and Cardwell's boss.

A New York newsletter, The Journalist and Financial Reporting, this week quoted from a transcript of Pearlstine's announcement to 60 news managers:

"I am someone who at various times in my life took pride in being over budget and thought only wimps came in under budget. It has been impressed upon me that that is not a very constructive way to think if I value my job or if any of you value yours."

Pearlstine, who confirmed that the quote was essentially correct, said he was speaking off the cuff and did not mean that heads, including his, were really on the block.

"I'm basically the kind of guy who thinks about coverage and about stories and not someone who has spent a lot of his time focusing on budgets," Pearlstine said yesterday. "But in a year like this one, budgets do count."