When it assigns books reviews, The Washington Post usually tries to find somebody who knows the subject matter. A reviewer who has firsthand knowledge of the material covered by the book is in a position to make a sound judgement on it.

Today, however, I may be subjecting you to a reviewer who has too much firsthand knowledge to retain his objectivity.Nevertheless, I'd like to tell you about the recently published book "The Washington Post, The First 100 Years" by Chalmers M. Roberts.

I have been intimately involved in the final third of The Post's first century, and for much of that time Chal Roberts was also on our staff. I don't think I can be objective about either Roberts or the newspaper he helped build. I think both exemplify the best that journalism has to offer.

Newsmen judge other newsmen on two counts: ability to dig out facts, and ability to present those facts in clear and attractive language. Roberts is a solid shoe-leather reporter who is blessed with a lucid writing style. The result of this happy combination is a book that I think is worth your time and money.

I doubt that "Thar First 100 Years" can be as interesting or important to an outsider as it is to those of us who lived through all those good old days and bad old days as employees of the paper. But my guess is that even a person who has never set foot in Washington will be interested to learn how a newspaper is born and grow - and what makes a newspaper great, or causes it to fall into decay. The book will be even more interesting to those who lived here and recognize the names of the people who make things happen in Washington - or prevent things from happening.

This is no puff piece that Roberts has written. He knows only one way to report a story, and that is with unblinking honesty. What emerges is not always a story of The Post hierachy's unerring judgment or infinite wisdom.

If The Post looks good in the end it is because The Post was good in those first 100 years. What will happen next is anybody's guess. We could become even better in our second century, but only if we have the discipline to work a little harder and dig a little deeper than the other guy. Once a newspaper stops running scared and becomes fat and complacent, it is in deep trouble. Read "The Washington Post, The First 100 Years" and you'll see what I mean.