In a war in which each F-14 raid, each Scud missile attack, each Pentagon briefing is broadcast live and in color, daily newspapers almost seem a quaint anachronism as their noisy presses churn out news that is six or eight hours old by the time it reaches people's doorsteps.

As New York Post Editor Jerry Nachman put it in his inimitable tabloid style: "In a CNN war, whither newspapers?"

But if the networks have owned the Persian Gulf story, newspapers have nevertheless managed to find an eager audience for extra editions and beefed-up press runs. The New York Post's 300,000 extra copies a day are "selling like hot bialys," Nachman says.

Newspapers have always offered greater depth and detail -- the New York Times published 50 gulf-related stories and columns yesterday -- but they have taken on another function in the fast-moving gulf war. On Thursday night, for example, television was filled with conflicting accounts of the Iraqi missile attack on Israel, including false reports that some victims had suffered nerve-gas damage and that Israel was on the verge of retaliation.

"It was very dramatic," says Brookings Institution analyst Stephen Hess. "We learned an awful lot of what it must feel like to be there. We saw reporters with gas masks on, we heard the sirens.

"But almost all of the facts were wrong -- the number of missiles, the number of casualties, the prospect of Israeli counterattack, the question of the use of nerve gas. Reporters were giving us their work sheets, their raw data. Newspapers by their very nature give us processed news. They've sorted out what's true and what's not true."

If the morning papers can't match the drama of Cable News Network anchor Bernard Shaw describing how he hid under his bed in a Baghdad hotel room, they can offer a bit of perspective, a historical record, plus such useful details as the war's impact on gas prices and airline safety. Some liken it to fans devouring the Monday sports section after already having watched the Redskins game.

"You're giving people a chance to look at it the second or third time, to really study the map, to read the beat writers, the defense analysts, the Pentagon bureau chief," Nachman says. And then there are the local angles. Yesterday's New York Post included such stories as "Jews in New York Want an Eye for an Eye" and "Cardinal O'Connor: 'I Prayed All Night.' "

The Washington Post published two extra editions Thursday -- the second one was distributed just before noon -- and some readers were buying them from delivery trucks. The paper increased its press run by 180,000 beyond its normal 800,000 circulation. Other papers that boosted their Thursday press runs were USA Today (by 500,000), the Los Angeles Times (230,000) and the New York Times (50,000).

Albert Hunt, the Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau chief, says the morning after the war began, "I had the feeling of a Chinese meal until I finished The Post and the Journal. It's a great television story and what CNN did was wonderful, positively riveting. But there is a certain shallowness about television."

In a moment that seemed to underscore the value of print coverage, CNN Pentagon correspondent Wolf Blitzer read from a newspaper report detailing how a 2,000-pound U.S. bomb leaves a crater 36 feet deep and 50 feet wide.

But the fact remains that newspapers are filled with yesterday's news at a time when nearly everyone is watching the war unfold on prime-time television. Had the Scud missiles landed in Tel Aviv a few hours later, the morning papers would have already published their original stories about how Israel was relieved that no attack had taken place. Even some reporters and news junkies say they are merely skimming the coverage after each bleary-eyed night of CNN-watching.

Still, critics say the networks have filled the airwaves with hours of tiresome blather, which Hess describes as "speculation, innuendo, rumor and plain misinformation."

"You have this endless parade of rather mediocre experts, retired generals and others who are out of it, and banter between anchors and people in the field," says Everette Dennis, director of the Gannett Center for Media Studies. "There's a dulling and numbing sameness to it. Watching CNN was like reading the AP wire -- it was disconnected, it was pieces. People want packages that make sense."

Ed Turner, CNN's vice president for news, agrees that television has not yet made print journalism obsolete. "This story has such impact that even though people have seen it, they want to turn around and read about it," he says. "People are hungry for analysis and commentary. You {newspapers} can provide stuff we can't."

Both television and print journalists have been up in arms for weeks over the Defense Department's coverage rules in the gulf, including requirements for military escorts and advance review of all stories. But in Saudi Arabia, where more than 100 reporters in 10 press pools have fanned out with U.S. forces, reporters seem pleased with their degree of access.

Molly Moore, a Washington Post reporter in Dhahran, says there have been some logistical problems, such as a pool report from the battleship USS Wisconsin that was delayed more than 12 hours. But she says military officials have made only two minor deletions in 118 pool reports.

"They've censored almost nothing," Moore says. "They got us some pilots pretty quickly. It's gone a lot smoother than any of us thought."

Some news executives have criticized the military for refusing to release casualty figures and other details.

Howell Raines, the New York Times bureau chief here, says Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney and other officials have provided "very scanty information. There's a full range of information they could have given out that the public is entitled to."

But USA Today Editor Peter Prichard says the Pentagon has acted reasonably. "Obviously, they're not being very forthcoming, but they're in the middle of a military operation," he says.