Newspapers may be a dying breed of mass media, but I have one certainty about newspapers: they aren't dying because people don't want the news anymore. The journalism industry may be falling apart because the world has changed and it's now the older folks who are reading the morning paper with their cup of coffee.
Steer Away from Advertising
The biggest reason newspapers are failing is because advertising revenues are down. People are no longer paying for classified ads when Craigslist is available for free. Businesses are no longer paying for ads when everyone is hopping online for their news. If advertising revenues are down, then newspapers need to find a new source of revenue. My suggestion would be advertorials, articles from businesses that relate to their products and services while offering something of value to readers of the newspaper. No, these things won't be press releases, but simply informative and feature articles that happen to be written by companies instead of freelance writers or journalists.
Do More Multimedia
I would suggest that newspapers engage in some of the content marketing techniques that businesses are using, such as infographics, videos, slideshows, ebooks, and whitepapers. No, this content wouldn't be promoting the newspaper, but would be supplemental content to the journalistic article we are used to. For example, coverage of President Obama's inauguration could be accompanies by an infographic outlining what he's accomplished in his first term. An article on the latest in Syria or Israel/Palestine could come with an e-book or whitepaper that goes into the history of the situation or the two countries. I'm not necessarily saying the coverage of the Super Bowl or the State of the Union should be in a slideshow. I'm simply suggesting that newspapers can get a little more creative here in order to draw readers in.
Granted, they are already trying with online techniques such as video and social media, but newspapers need to do more than to promote their own content. They ought to create content no one else is creating, utilizing the knowledge that their reporters have built up over the years.
Hold Government Accountable
As the only industry protected by the Constitution, newspapers have the responsibility to hold government and its officials accountable. For newspapers, this would primarily be local government and state government, since national government would be of the purview of national newspapers and perhaps the newspapers in Washington D.C. It's tough work, and not everyone wants the press or a journalist talking and asking questions, but that's the job of the press and a journalist. This is an incredibly responsibility because if newspapers don't do it, it's hard to figure out who will.
Put the Feature Stuff Elsewhere
Okay, I grant that sports, editorials, opinion and what not are more popular than the hard news stories. Because they are more popular, I think these sections shouldn't go into the main newspaper but be given their own platform, whether that's strictly online or as an insert or even as a smaller tabloid that could be purchased separately. This would give both the hard news and the fun stuff more column inches, increasing the coverage of both topics. This would also make the hard news less reliant on advertising. Folks are advertising to be seen next to the report on what President Obama is doing or on what's happening halfway across the world. Folks are advertising to be seen next to the sports or arts sections, which might have stories more relevant to what's being advertised.
Perform More Investigative Journalism
With the budget cuts, newspapers don't do this as much as they used to, although newspapers are one of the few institutions that can be trusted to do investigative journalism well. This may be easier to do once the feature stuff is moved around and maybe more revenue is coming in and all of that good stuff. Or, perhaps a newspaper could go change things entirely and only do investigative journalism. After all, there's tons of other people and publications covering much of the other stuff.