ON ANOTHER DAY we will talk about the meaning and value of competition in the newspaper business and the obligations we feel are incurred by any newspaper that may find itself the only major daily in a big city. For now, despite the gloomy prospects suggested by The Star's ownership yesterday and despite the fact that we are not Pollyannas, we prefer still to hope that in the two-week interlude the Time Inc. people have allowed, someone, somehow, will rescue the falling Star. And in any event, though there is self-evident truth to the comments about how this nation's great cities are losing their journalistic variety and how this place and that have become one-newspaper cities and so on, all that analytic talk is just too general and coldblooded to address what is on everyone's mind today: a real newspaper, one that has been and is a unique institution in this town. The Washington Star is an integral part of our city, its history and its contemporary life. It is not to be talked of -- dismissed -- under the heading of some journalistic phenomenon or problem.

It is a tribute to the power of The Star that it has managed to retain its special character through such a broad range of adversities, changes in ownership and changes in times and public tastes. And it has been, we have no doubt of it, because they understood and were loyal to this special character that so many of The Star's employees -- its celebrities as well as those less known -- have paid in so very much to keep the paper good and keep it going over the years.

From its beginning in 1852, when its founder committed the paper to independence and devotion "in an especial manner" to this city, The Star has stayed on course. Not all that long ago The Star was number one -- in what was then a lively family of competing papers in Washington. At the height of its power as well as in the days of financial pressures and strain, the paper has never losts its intense interest in the local life of this city or its insistence on turning itself from time to time into a kind of benign civic organization -- sending a kid to camp or promoting tennis tournaments and other events designed to enrich the quality of life in this community. The Star was and is lively. But it has also managed to remain over the years, well, stately .

In cannot have been easy for the people who make up that paper to maintain this quality through the rough-and-tumble years of rumor, pressure, sale, change, strain. The first thing people usually feel entitled to lose in such situations is their dignity. That never went. First Joe Allbritton tried to remake the paper and then the people of Time, Inc., in the words of Time's J. Richard Munro, did their "damndest" to revive it and set it on a new and viable course. James R. Shepley, The Star's chairman of the board, noted yesterday that circumstances just didn't work for them, that "we are not blaming anybody" for the outcome and that they want to keep the door open for someone with a better idea.

Our hope is that someone turns up. We say that not just because two papers are better than one in any big city like ours. We say it because we think The Washington Star has been a great newspaper -- and an essential part of this city.