Journalist Lara Moritz '90 Wins Amelia Earhart Award

Donates $10,000 scholarship prize to Knox College

October 17, 2012

Lara Moritz '90 interviews President Obama

By Ashley Wolfgang '14

Award-winning broadcast journalist Lara Moritz '90 credits Knox College for her professional success, explaining that "Knox prepared me to set goals, work hard and never take no for an answer."

With the impact Knox has had on Moritz's life, it's no surprise she chose Knox as the recipient of a $10,000 scholarship she recently received from the Amelia Earhart Pioneering Achievement Award. Each year, the $10,000 award recognizes an individual who reinforces self-worth and self-confidence in women and who demonstrates that "anything is possible," according to the organization's website. Winners of the award are allowed to donate the proceeds to the institution of their choice.

Moritz's memories of being a student at Knox include:

  • Faculty members Robert Hellenga (George Appleton Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of English) and Robin Metz (Philip Sidney Post Professor of English) teaching her the beauty of the written word and the art of telling a good story.
  • Watching football games in the Knosher Bowl.
  • Flunk Day.
  • Pumphandle.
  • Gatherings at the Phi Delta Theta, Tau Kappa Epsilon, and Beta Theta Pi houses.
  • Enjoying her favorite places on campus: the Gizmo, Seymour Library, and Old Main.

After graduating from Knox with a major in English writing, Moritz earned her Master's of Science in journalism from the University of Kansas and quickly dove into the world of investigative reporting.

Currently at KMBC 9 News in Kansas City, Missouri, Moritz anchors the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts and will be celebrating 18 years at the station next January. During her time at the station, Moritz has won two Edward R. Murrow awards and two Emmys.

"I won my first Edward R Murrow award in 2007 for a three-year investigation with the Kansas City murder squad," Moritz explains. "We walked side-by-side with detectives through a murder investigation-autopsy and suspect interrogations. Never before had the murder squad granted such intimate access. It was a comprehensive piece that I did with my photographer/husband Todd Ummelmann."

"The second Murrow I won was in 2009. It was for a one-on-one jailhouse interview with an admitted serial killer. It was intimidating interviewing a man who confessed to me if he was ever let out of prison he would kill again."

Moritz won her first Emmy for sports reporting in 1997. "We found an underwater hockey league here in Kansas City," she explains. "Using an underwater camera we put together a creative story on an unusual sport!"

Her second Emmy was for an investigative piece on animal abuse in the state of Kansas. "We were able to convince lawmakers to make animal abuse a felony charge. The story was born out of a horrific case where a little dog named ‘Scruffy' was burned to death on a barbecue grill and the suspects were charged with a misdemeanor," explains Moritz.

In addition to her four awards, Moritz has interviewed President Barack Obama (in photo at top of page) and Michelle Obama, speaking with the president in 2011 and with the first lady earlier this year.

"I was so nervous I don't remember much of the actual (presidential) interview! All I kept thinking as I walked across the room to shake the President's hand was, ‘Do not trip, Lara.' When the national media picked it up, that was a very proud moment for me."

"Interviewing Mrs. Obama was less nerve-wracking," she explains. "She's as tall as I am (nearly 6 feet), and we immediately started talking about our kids and being working mothers."

In fact, being a mother is one of Moritz's biggest achievements. With a 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter, she explains, "they are the light of my life. I feel blessed to be their mother."

"My plans for the future? Seeing my kids through college, riding into the sunset with my husband, and telling a few good stories along the way."

By choosing a Knox education, she says, she learned "to believe in the human spirit and always search for the truth by listening to all sides of a story."