NEW YORK (AP) _ Debby Krenek, a 10-year veteran of the Daily News, was named editor in chief on Wednesday _ the first woman to hold the post in the tabloid's 77-year history.

Krenek, who had been executive editor, becomes the paper's third editor in chief in the last 12 months, and replaces Pete Hamill, who left last month after barely eight months on the job.

Hamill's predecessor, Martin Dunn, left last October.

Daily News chairman and co-publisher Mortimer B. Zuckerman, in announcing the appointment, said Krenek ``has proven to be a gifted leader and motivator.''

Krenek has been handling Hamill's responsibilities since the best-selling author's departure on Sept. 4.

Krenek has also worked at the Dallas Times Herald and the Corpus Christie (Texas) Caller Times.

Krenek takes over the News as a circulation war with the New York Post is heating up. The News' tabloid rival recently slashed the price of its Sunday paper from 50 cents to 25 cents, forcing the News to cut its Sunday price by 50 cents to $1.

In the period ended March 31 _ the latest figures available _ the News' average daily circulation was 728,000, off 30,000 from a year earlier.