How a reporter took down Big Floss

Here’s a little secret that’s probably not a secret: Reporters miss a lot of stories that are right beneath our nose. Sometimes they — we — get so focused on what we think the news is that we miss the news. More often, a subject doesn’t have the cachet to get our attention. It’s an occupational habit.

Dental floss, it’s fair to say, is beneath most of us.

That’s why the Associated Press’ takedown of dental flossdom is such an interesting tale. Whoever would think there’s a news story in dental floss?

Jeff Donn, a national writer for the Associated Press, that’s who. How he got the story that dominated a news cycle against the likes of Donald Trump, is revealed by the journalism think tank, Poynter today.

He got the tip when he took his son to the orthodontist.

It’s a great reminder to us that while we might be swinging for the Pulitzer fences, real stories with great impact often aren’t where you think they are.

“An especially gratifying reaction came from a professor at a college of dentistry, who thanked me for the story, saying the weak evidence for flossing’s benefits had long been a pet peeve for him, especially since it wasn’t openly acknowledged by his profession,” Donn said. “Dozens of colleagues from around the AP and the broader news industry — and other folks who simply read the news — contacted me to say they loved the story.”

Donn’s advice for other journalists: “Question everything, including if your mother really loves you,” he said.

Donn, by the way, still flosses.