Star features sections win top award

The Kansas City Star’s Features sections have been judged best in their class in the annual University of Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Awards, which were announced Tuesday.

An investigative series about insurance companies also landed The Star top honors in consumer affairs reporting.

The General Excellence Award for features was in a class of medium-sized newspapers.

“The Star’s feature sections routinely eschew the routine in favor of imaginative design, lively writing and relevant content,” the judges said. “From FYI to A&E to Food, readers find interesting stories and eye-catching presentation. When a special occasion arises, such as the opening of the redesigned Nelson-Atkins art gallery, the Star rises to that occasion with a special section that captures both style and substance. When most newspapers are cutting back and trimming down, the judges were impressed with the Star’s continuing commitment to Kansas City’s life beyond the headlines.”

The Seattle Times won second place in the category and The Palm Beach Post third.

The Washington Post was named general excellence winner among larger newspapers. In smaller-circulation categories, winners included The News-Record of Greensboro, N.C., the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press and the Litchfield County Times, of Milford, Conn.

Star reporters Mike Casey, Mark Morris and David Klepper and photographer Chris Oberholtz were cited for their three-part, award-winning series, “Insurance Companies: Service or Shenanigans?,” which appeared in December 2006.

“Insurance touches everybody — those who are covered, those who are not covered,” the announcement stated. “Nobody likes to buy it; that gives rise to the adage that insurance is always sold, never bought. But once insurance companies and their agents close the sale, do they provide the expected service? Often, the answer is no. This series explores why problems so often arise, then explains what consumers can do to alleviate the damage.”

The series outpolled two reports by The Los Angeles Times and one by Denver Westword, an alternative weekly.

According to the Missouri School of Journalism, the sponsor, the competition attracted more than 1,100 entries from more than 100 newspapers and writers. Winners receive $1,000 in prize money and a lead crystal vase trophy.