A familiar-looking tabloid is being peddled on the streets of New York. It has a scoop about the FBI secretly wiretapping John Gotti, another about a Brooklyn principal allegedly hiding two abused children from social workers. There are stories on the Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers, columns by well-known writers, and that old standby, the "Inquiring Photographer."

And in small type beneath each byline: "Striking Daily News Reporter."

It is called Real News, a 12-page paper put out by striking reporters and editors of the New York Daily News. It is competing against the slimmed-down Daily News and, as of yesterday, a new, full-color afternoon edition launched by the News in an effort to shore up declining circulation.

The afternoon venture, which is noteworthy because all other New York papers are published in the morning, had an initial press run of 30,000 copies limited to Manhattan. Like the morning edition, it is largely being sold by hawkers and homeless men as the News, whose circulation has plunged from 1.1 million to about 300,000, tries to lure back readers and major advertisers.

Real News is also relying on hawkers and union volunteers, meaning that the 5 1/2-week labor war is increasingly being waged, New York-style, on street corners and in subway stations. The nine striking unions have spent $90,000 to produce two editions of Real News and say they are distributing 1 million copies.

"Our biggest obstacle to distributing it for free is that people think it's the scab Daily News," says striking reporter Tom Robbins.

Few city newsstands carry the Daily News, in part because of a continuing wave of violence and vandalism against dealers.

On Sunday, a pipe bomb was found near the paper's Brooklyn plant and a striker was charged with assaulting a News hawker. The News has fought back with a $150 million racketeering suit against union groups and drivers.

Real News offers its share of union propaganda, including a Christmas list of companies who are "naughty" (still advertising in the Daily News) and "nice" (those who have pulled their ads).

Robbins calls Real News "a way to demonstrate that the guts of the Daily News that New Yorkers love to read is out on the picket lines. We broke more stories in one issue of Real News than the Daily News broke in five weeks."

But Daily News Editor Jim Willse says the paper has been "virtually untouched" in features, sports and photography.

"The single biggest dry spot we have is local coverage," Willse says. "Most of the cityside reporters are still out. We're not covering the city with the same depth. There are reporters who spent years developing beats and sources, and they're not here."

Some city officials and groups have refused to cooperate with the replacement reporters. At one news conference, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messenger would not answer a News reporter's question. Paul Needell, a striking football writer, went to a New York Jets training camp to urge players not to talk to his replacement.

The unions cried foul this week when the News published a long series on immigration that was largely written by striking reporters. Willse says their bylines were withheld at their request.

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism Media coverage of the 1990 elections was overwhelmingly negative, and Republican candidates bore the brunt of the negative onslaught, a new study says.

Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, says he found a partisan tilt in coverage by CBS, NBC, ABC and The Washington Post over the campaign's final 10 days. He says 75 percent of those interviewed said negative things about Republican candidates, while 55 percent dumped on the Democrats.

Bias was most dramatic in the race between Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt (D), according to Lichter. He says 91 percent of voters who were quoted had good things to say about Gantt, compared with 43 percent for Helms. Gantt drew positive comments from 45 percent of the campaign officials; Helms got none.

"I don't think this is a matter of the evil liberal media saying we're going to get Helms," Lichter says. "But journalists were receptive to people who saw Helms as the bad guy and Gantt as the good guy."

Karen DeYoung, The Post's assistant managing editor for national news, disputed the findings. "I don't think fairness is an exact 50-50 split, that you go through your notes and say you want to have three quotes saying this and three quotes saying that," she says. "You try to talk to a wide variety of people and have your stories reflect that variety."

The networks' Washington bureau chiefs were equally critical. "Helms himself ran an extremely negative campaign, and I think that may account for some of the negativism," says ABC's George Watson. "To try to quantify sound bites and not look at the overall coverage seems to be limited scholarship at best," says NBC's Tim Russert.

"If someone would do a study of {the center's} comments, I think you'd find they say the same thing year after year," says CBS's Barbara Cohen.

But Lichter says his center found no partisan tilt in coverage of the 1988 presidential race. "I'm the first to say the conservative complaints of imbalance are wrong," he says.

Thomas B. Edsall, who covered the Helms-Gantt race for The Post, says what the center records as negative comments may actually play into a candidate's strategy. "Jesse Helms sought out media criticism. He found running against the press to be beneficial," Edsall says.

The 'Drug Watch' The phone has been ringing off the hook at the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard Times, which recently began publishing the mug shots of every local person arrested on drug charges, sometimes two dozen to a page.

"We've had more telephone calls on this subject from our readers than on anything I can remember," Editor James Ragsdale says. "There's a sense of a connection between my newspaper and this problem out there."

Ragsdale says running photos with the "Drug Watch" column is no different from publishing pictures of accused murderers or rapists. The 50,000-circulation paper plans to run the photos again when each suspect is acquitted or convicted.

New Bedford's mayor has applauded the campaign, and the chief district judge helped out by ordering all drug suspects arraigned during certain morning hours. That drew a blast from John Roberts of the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union, who said it is "really reprehensible" for court officials "to taint the whole right to a fair trial" by helping to arrange such pictures.

Says Ragsdale, who also plans to run pictures of arrested prostitutes and johns: "I'm not so naive as to think that publishing photographs is going to end drugs. I'm hoping it develops a greater public awareness. ... The scourge of drugs has become so deep and widespread that there's hardly a household that's not affected."

Ragsdale speaks from personal experience. Five years ago, his son, then 19, was arrested on cocaine charges. "We ran the story on Page 1 so people wouldn't say we buried it because he was the editor's son," Ragsdale says.

Secrets of Success The publisher of Success magazine, Scott DeGarmo, told senior editors in a recent memo that money set aside for their raises will be reduced every time they allow an error into print.

"If you misuse the commas around a restrictive or nonrestrictive clause, I'll charge you a mere $25 for the first few times," he wrote. "If you mispell the name of the main person in the story, I'll clobber you for $500 minimum."

DeGarmo told New York magazine -- which ungenerously noted that in his memo he had left an "s" out of "misspell" -- that he is "waging a war against editorial slobbery."