WASHINGTON (AP) _ Michael J. Coleman, president and publisher of the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star, has been named president of the newly formed Gannett Central Newspaper Group, Gannett announced Tuesday.

The Central Group becomes the fourth regional reporting unit within the Community Newspaper Division, joining similar structures in the East, South and West, said Gary L. Watson, president of Gannett's Community Newspaper Division.

Coleman, 42, was named to the Rockford post in April 1984. In December 1985, he became vice president in the Gannett East Group.

Coleman was publisher of the Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) Saratogian from 1980 to 1984 and held editing positions at Gannett newspapers in Saratoga Springs and Port Huron, Mich.

Under the new regional structures, Gannett East will include 23 daily newspapers; Gannett South, 11 daily newspapers; Gannett West, 17 daily newspapers; and Gannett Central, 18 daily newspapers.

The regional realignment will permit ''an even closer working relationship between the individual newspaper and the regional presidents and vice presidents,'' Watson said.

Gannett publishes 93 daily newspapers, including the national newspaper USA Today.