Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, reporter Rona Kobell reacts to the recent scandals at Rolling Stone and New York magazines by writing about the time, early in her career, that she found out too late that a source had lied to her; and how that taught her to check every claim, no matter how small. Here's the core lesson she learned from all that fact-checking:
People lie to reporters. They tell a lot of little lies, and sometimes they tell big lies. They claim degrees that they never earned and jobs they never held. They lie to their friends, and they lie to themselves.
Full disclosure: Rona's my wife. I watched her uncover all that petty (and sometimes more than petty) résumé-stuffing, and I learned a lot from it too. Her article includes her best story about encountering a liar—it culminates with the guy confessing to his deceptions while being wheeled into an emergency room—but I can attest that there were many more incidents as well.
People have an enormous capacity for dishonesty, and their lies aren't limited to extraordinary claims like the ones in New York and Rolling Stone. They're broader and deeper, a great big sea of shaded truth that we all walk around in every day.