IN ONE RESPECT, certainly, the auspices under which the new year begins are good: The Washington Star lives -- and it will continue to do so with a management pledge of the "leadership and financial support" necessary to rpeserve The Star's role as a major American newspaper. It wasn't always obvious during the past few weeks of hard-bargaining and hardball-playing that this would be the case. But after a grueling climactic weekend of negotiation -- complicated or facilitated, depending how you look at it, by the intervention of U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey -- the paper's management and unions finally settled the outstanding contract-issues between them. And they did so in a way that brings into force the commitment of The Star's owner, Time Inc., to continue the paper's publication and to invest $60 million in it over the next five years.

For reasons too numerous (and obvious) to mention, we do not intend to get into the fine or even broad points of the bargaining among the various parties or the ultimate settlements involved. But we have no reticence whatever about expressing our profound and even joyous satisfaction at the overall result: the continued life of our worthy competitor across town, and the prospect that its first class newspaper people will have the time and room to pursue their journalistic careers free of these recurring and debilitating life-and-death financial crises. They deserve at least as much. Surely no group has done more to sustain the existence of The Star -- and with it, the two-newspaper condition of life in the nation's capital -- than those dogged Star employees who have willingly made personal financial sacrifices over the years to keep the paper whole.

Speaking strictly as the Other Paper (in The Star's scheme of things), we return to a theme that is familiar, but no less deeply felt for that: We want and welcome the competition; we think the individual reader and the public as a whole are both better off for it -- and that we as a newspaper are too. We frankly do not covet either the external political pressures or the internal professional smugness that would likely attend one-newspaper status in this town. And looking beyond our own institutional self-interest, we join those who think the quality of public discourse and public life would suffer from such a situation.

To say that, as we have done before, is always to risk sounding just a little condescending or, perhaps, collusive. But we aim to be neither. When we say we welcome a strengthened competitor back into the arena, we mean just that. There is nothing head-patting or hand-holding about it. We wish The Star well -- but not too well. It's as simple and unencumbered as that.