Still, you need to come to work every day with two or three good ideas that aren't in the local newspaper and haven't been done by the competition. And you need to have an angle that will make the story different than what you'd expect.
Notice I said stories that haven't been in the "local" newspaper. There's nothing to prevent you from reading out of town papers on the Internet to get your creative juices flowing. My dad used to mail me batches of New York papers every week, and I'd often find interesting pieces that I could localize or take in a different direction. Sometimes articles from out of town can send your mind off on a tangent that will result in an idea that had nothing to do with the original article. Bottom line, if you read a lot, you'll come up with ideas.
But that's just part of the equation. To be in touch with your local community, you need to have a plan of attack.
-Develop and touch base regularly with sources
-Hand out business cards to everyone you meet
-Take a different route to work and back to your home
-Ask everyone you interview if they have another story
-Look for the different angle, or the "third side" of the story
Sources: At my first station, we had a veteran reporter who didn't do packages every day, but when he did them they were really good. The ND told me he was our "snoop." He'd work his way through the courthouse, police station, and various political offices every day and come up with all sorts of gems. It was old fashioned reporting you probably can't do now due to time restrictions, but you can do the same thing with your cell phone. Touch base with your sources often, and don't just "use" these people. Have an interest in their lives and let them know you're actually a human being.
Business cards: You should be burning through these quickly. Every person you meet needs to get one, whether it's an official you interview, a man-in-the-street, or the woman in the line at the grocery store. Hand them out with this simple line: "If you ever have a good story, give me a call."
The commute: When you take the same route every day, you don't really "see" anything. Everything is wallpaper. Taking different routes forces you to notice different things, and what you notice might lead to a good story. I can't tell you how many stories I've found in this manner. If you take the same route every day, you'll never see anything new.
Tangent stories: So you're interviewing some guy on an economic story and you finish asking questions for your package. Are you done? Nope. While you're packing up your gear, ask the person if there's anything else of interest he might know about that might make a good story. The guy might have a great political tip, a human interest story, or a lead on something big. Every person has varied interests and knows lots of people; it's silly to assume the person you just interviewed is only versed in your topic for the day.
Different angles: (Lots of math terms today, I know.) Every story has two obvious sides, but there are often third points of view that aren't being considered. You need to think of other consequences to the story besides the obvious.
Example... You're doing a story on the Iceland volcano and stranded travelers. On one side, you have the airlines losing money, on the other, you have people stuck in airports. What's the third side?
Well, all those people stuck in the airport are spending money in the airport restaurant, which is doing a booming business. As are the airport hotels. Meanwhile, all those people that would have been headed to popular vacation spots are causing a negative effect on the other end.... how much money are the restaurants, hotels and shops in the destinations losing since their customers are stuck in an airport? What happened to the cruise ship leaving from the UK when half its passengers couldn't fly to London?
Story ideas are everywhere, you just have to dig for them. Read a lot, talk a lot, work the phones, and think out of the box every time you see something interesting. Eventually gathering story ideas will become easier, and something that becomes second nature.