Newsmap is fascinating. It's a graphical way of looking at the top stories in the news landscape, using information gleaned from Google News. The site's creator has written a bit about how it works. (Thanks for the pointer, John Battelle.)
I don't think this exact approach would work for a local news operation, such as the one I work for, because, frankly, there's not that much local news in a single day -- and the graphic would look more like a Rothko than a mosaic.
But some slightly different approaches might work. How about graphics that display...
- ...the most-covered topics in a particular newspaper over a time period. If a site's publishing system categorizes stories, it can, in theory, create a list of the categories containing the most stories.
- ...the most important news stories on a site over a time period. A single day's worth of news might be too little, but a month's worth could work.
- ...the most commented-on news stories for a news site with user comments enabled on a per-story basis.