Whiteboard with story ideas

A whiteboard from a story brainstorm with middle school writing students.

A fave recent story find: a tight little feature in the Boston Globe: ‘Please do not erase’: A treasured whiteboard at Boston’s Children Hospital has not been touched for 15 years.  Whiteboards are on my geek-love list, along with flip-charts, Sharpies and hot-pink paper clips. So I bit, and wasn’t disappointed. This particular whiteboard is preserved behind plexiglass. The story is preserved behind the Globe’s paywall, so here’s the brief: Dr. Judah Folkman was chief of surgery at the hospital and a visionary in cancer research. The wall-sized whiteboard is in a conference room where Folkman met with colleagues for open-minded, creative brainstorming sessions. As probing questions and promising ideas were collected, they were kept and credited. Just half of the board is still used, erased, and used again for more current and mundane meeting notes. The rest is an archive of genius.

We are losing so much of our collected wisdom in the send-and-delete digital age. We also, in the news biz at least, often suck at productive brainstorming. But I think of the storyboards I’ve seen scribbled on whiteboards and flipcharts and windows and legal pads and Post-its in newsrooms throughout my career and marvel at the genius captured there. Like the news — and now newspapers — it can seem fleeting. But it is no less crucial to the human story.

Most popular articles from Nieman Storyboard