If newspapers worked the way they did in my brain:
1. Their Web sites would aggregate the news for a big, breaking story so if I went to their sites I wouldn't have to look at other sites in the region for stories on the same topic. I'd get short fat graph-introductions to stories on other news sites. I'd know it was a good read, because you told me so by showing me it was there. And the next time something big happened, I'd come back again -- and again.
2. Newspapers would look at their Web sites as a way to start as many regional or national online niche products as they could handle, given they keep downsizing their newsrooms. A place like Delaware, for example, would have a sister Web site for beaches or tax-free shopping or incorporation information for businesses. Fort Myers would offer a Web site for midwesterns who wanted to retire to the area, including a database of such information as movers in my area, property tax information and home insurers and rates -- so I didn't have to look around for this stuff on a bunch of other sites. (I worked in both places, just for the record.)
3. Local stories would be on incorporated into a map as well as just listed on the Web site by what time it happened. Then I could decide if I wanted to read the content by its closeness to my home or my work as well as just by a good headline. It would be really interesting if, as part of this effort, citizen videos of breaking news could be downloaded onto these maps as part of the interactivity for my geographic area of interest.
4. Sports departments would link previous stories on particular teams, so that I could read the stories that ran before about this particular story. They would use their archived profiles and statistics on a particular sport, encyclopedic information in a Wikipedia-like format if you will, as links in every story so if I would have every piece of information at my fingertips. And they'd add some kind of social networking, so I can hang out online with folks like me -- who liked the same teams.
5. Newsrooms would use their historical knowledge of the community and put that into some kind of Wikipedia-like database of information that allowed readers to learn about the area through their links to local stories as well as through just browsing on topics of interest. (Ok, I've mentioned this one before, but it has a long tail so I will mention it again.)
6. Directed the conversation on particular topics -- think msn's moneycentral -- by asking a few pointed questions about stories you've written that would engage in serious discussion, offer suggestions or tips and be another place to develop content that could be linked to the original story or new stories on the topic as they were written.
7. Think of each story not as a one-dimensional, one-time only piece that would be finished once the editor moved it to the desk. Instead, it would be interesting if newsrooms thought of every story as a container of endless possibilities for content that -- over time with links, videos, photos, maps -- offers the kind of depth that the print product has slowly whittled away at over the last few years.