After years of railing against some of the press, guess who's becoming a publisher? Herb Schmertz, Mobil Oil's vice president for public affairs, recently bought (with another Mobil executive) the weekly Croton-Cortland News in New York. Schmertz, who earlier this year helped mastermind Sen. Edward Kennedy's campaign media, is the man behind Mobil's distinctive ads that often appear opposite the editorial pages of several large newspapers. Some of those ads criticize media coverage of energy-related issues.

Now Schmertz has a newspaper of his own in an affluent New York suburb. But he says his biggest ideas involve increasing the number of pages and publishing periodical specials on topics that have nothing to do with energy.

Not that his mind is ever far from the subject of energy and America's destiny. Last year he and his newspaper partner from Mobil, Larry Woods, wrote a novel, Takeover , about some scheming business types.Now the pair is working on another book tentatively titled The Blizzard of '89 . "It's an extrapolation of all our energy policies," says Schmertz. The plot peaks in 1989 when a massive snowstorm coincides with oil shortages caused by what Schmertz and Woods presumably consider bumbling government policy and an ill-informed citizenry.