ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) _ USA Today's new editor, David Mazzarella, has worked for the newspaper ''since before Day One'' and helped spread its name across the globe, the newspaper's president and publisher said today.

Mazzarella was named on Thursday to be the national daily's fourth editor, succeeding Peter Prichard who had the post since 1988.

''Foremost he brings an understanding of USA Today and its potential role in the emerging global media scene,'' said publisher Tom Curley.

''None of us knows exactly what that means,'' he added. ''Simply, we are trying to get prepared.''

He said Mazzarella has worked for many years with the newspaper's parent company, Gannett, and ''embraces our approach in terms of collegiality, teams and reallocating resources.''

Curley said Prichard would miss the day-to-day editing functions but not the extremely long hours.

''There is no question that Peter elevated this newspaper and helped us win respect and boosted our readership,'' Curley said.

USA Today made news on the financial markets, too, on Thursday when an investment conglomerate controlled by billionaire Warren Buffett bought 4.9 percent of the outstanding stock of Gannett.

Mazzarella will retain his position as president of the newspaper's international publishing division. Prichard resigned to move to a new executive role at the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan, international foundation supporting freedom of the press, according to a USA Today announcement.

Mazzarrella will be USA Today's fourth editor.

The stock purchase by Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett's investment conglomerate, was seen by one prominent newspaper stock analyst as an investment rather than an effort to take over Gannett.

''Warren Buffett never makes unfriendly takeover attempts. I imagine he is buying the shares because he thinks they are a good value,'' said John Morton.

Buffett could not immediately be reached for comment and neither could other officials at Berkshire Hathaway headquarters in Omaha.

Gannett is a nationwide news and information company that publishes 82 daily newspapers, including USA Today. It operates 10 television stations, 11 radio stations and the largest outdoor advertising company in North America.

Gannett has 139.7 million shares of common stock outstanding.

''We are delighted that Berkshire Hathaway has shown this level of confidence in Gannett,'' a company announcement said.

Curley announced the editorial changes at a staff meeting, and praised Prichard ''for helping USA Today's readership and respect worldwide.''

Mazzarella was an Associated Press newsman for 10 years beginning in 1962. He was news editor in the Rome AP bureau when he joined the Rome Daily American. He joined Gannett as foreign news editor of its news service in 1976, became editor, then publisher, of the Bridgewater, N.J., Courier-News, and moved to USA Today in 1983.

Buffett, who owns 40.3 percent of Berkshire Hathaway, recently was named the second-richest American by Forbes Magazine, with a net worth of $9.2 billion. He came in behind Bill Gates of Microsoft.

Buffett's firm also is a financial participant in the Washington Post Co. and he has had a seat on its board. Buffett also ran Salomon Brothers for nine months in 1991 after the investment firm ran into legal difficulties.

Berkshire Hathaway has an interest in another large media company, Capital Cities-ABC, and in Coca Cola, GEICO, Gillette, Wells Fargo and USAir.

Gannett stock rose $3.87 1/2 to $51 on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday.