Whenever a major news event happens, reporters are supposed to get reaction from people.

One of last week's biggest items was that the president had proposed a 3.5 percent federal pay raise to go into effect in January.

That is half a percent less than the pay recommendation Congress is working on, and about 17 percent less than the government's own pay survey says is needed to keep U.S. salaries in the same ballpark as those in the private sector.

When this town's 300,000 white collar workers--who think they are underpaid, heard about the raise--nobody had to go out and get reactions. They came in. Example:

* "I'm an engineer with the Navy Department. My salary is $3,000 less than what I could get in private industry right here. You can ask why do I stay? I'm stuck. I have too much time invested in the retirement system, even though it is not as generous as plans offered on the outside.

"When I think of the major scientific achievements made by my laboratory, I am proud. Then when I see what they are doing to us, I ask myself 'Why do they hate us so?' "

* "I'm from West Virginia and government pay looks very good to people there. They can't understand why we I work for the federal government bellyache about pay. What I can't tell my relatives and friends back home is that the jobs we are doing are highly technical. They require education and training that they don't have. No wonder they don't understand."

* "Run through this again for me. We start paying Medicare last January, then we get a pay cut this October because of the bookkeeping change, and then we get a pay raise if you call it that in January. Please explain. Self-addressed envelope enclosed."