Following up on our Slog discussion yesterday about the so-called Packers Model for "saving" the P-I (start here and follow the links backward), Sandeep Kaushik points toward an idea that he thinks has a better chance of working.

It's an idea that I've heard rumblings about, too, but one that he beat me to confirming:

Several higher-ups at the P-I are in the “formative stages” of creating a non-profit news entity, primarily focused on investigative journalism covering the Western states, which would be funded by foundations and other major donors.

The model for such a site is Pro Publica, which bills itself as “an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.” Pro Publica, which began publishing last June, is led by Paul Steiger, a former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, and is largely funded by grants from several major foundations. The site produces investigative reports for its own web site, and those pieces are also shopped around to print newspapers and magazines...

The effort, if it gets off the ground, would provide a landing place for most of the P-I’s investigative reporters, such as double-Pulitzer Prize winners Eric Nalder and Andy Schneider, and could include high-profile P-I columnists like Joel Connelly. McCumber cautioned that it was too early to tell who might write for such a venture, but added that the site, if it moves forward, will likely include both narrative and investigative voices, including some not currently on the P-I staff.

This fits with the broader picture that I'm seeing. The discussion shouldn't be so much about "saving" the P-I or not saving the P-I. Fact is, the P-I as people know and remember it is done. For good. Completely finished.

The discussion should instead be rooted in what is actually about to happen, which is the carving up of the carcass of a fallen dinosaur.

Hearst is likely to take the brand name, the web address, and a few smart and cheap staffers (and maybe some more expensive staffers with recognizable names, too) and launch a new, experimental incarnation of the P-I's web site. Certain other P-I staffers, led by Kery Murakami, seem likely to take their experience and abilities and try to make a run at some sort of community-funded online journalism enterprise, perhaps based on the Packers Model. And still other
P-I staffers—the heavyweights on the investigative team plus certain journalistic stars—are working on launching yet another online-only venture based on the Pro Publica model.

Broadly speaking: the young and the web savvy will go one way, the mid-career and Pulitzer-less will go another way, the journalistic stars will go a third way, many others will simply go into new careers or extended unemployment, and in the end, nothing will be left but a spinning globe above the bones of a rented office space with an exceptionally nice view.