FBy Colin Capece ’18
For more than 80 years, from the ancient days of pen and paper through today’s digital era, members of Tarmac have worked tirelessly to create a product that the Chaminade community could enjoy. From the first edition printed in 1934 to today’s award-winning publication, Tarmac has kept alumni and students alike both informed and entertained about all things Chaminade. Now in its 82nd year of operation, this publication has seen numerous talented, hard-working students contribute to its success. After gaining experience as student reporters, some former writers even decided to take their journalistic careers one or two steps further.
Mike Vaccaro ’85, a sports columnist for the New York Post, is one of the most well-known alumni of Tarmac. After graduating from Chaminade, he attended St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York. Four years later, Vaccaro began his career as a professional journalist, catching his first big break when he was hired by the Kansas City Star Ledger in 1997. After a year in Kansas City, Vaccaro joined the Newark Star Ledger, where he worked for four years. He was hired by the Post in 2002.
Vaccaro says he was drawn to sports journalism as young as the age of seven. “My dad took me to a baseball game at Shea Stadium […], pointed out the press box, told me what the people inside did for a living, and that was that,” Vacarro wrote in an email.
Years later, Vaccaro began to further explore his passion when he came to Chaminade. He immediately joined the freshman divisional edition of Tarmac, and by the end of his sophomore year, Vaccaro was writing for the school-wide version of the publication.
“I wrote, at the end of my sophomore year, a story about the baseball team, and when I saw my first byline, it was the exact same feeling of wonder and pride I felt 19 years later when I had my first column printed in the Post,” said Vaccaro, who also played basketball while at Chaminade, regularly writing articles about the team. “I had the kind of access that professional sports writers can only dream of!” He jokingly added, “I took the job pretty seriously and totally second-guessed Coach Basel a couple of times in stories for moves he’d make – or not make – during games. He gave me a hard time with that.”
Thirty-one years after beginning his journalism career as a freshman in high school, Vaccaro is still covering events in the sports capital of the world. With nine professional teams and some of the most passionate fans on the planet, there are unlimited opportunities available to sports writers in their pursuit of a story.
“There is always something to write about. There is always someone to write about. There is an always an issue, and the great thing about New York and New Yorkers is that everyone has an opinion, and nobody is afraid to share it,” explained Vaccaro.
However, in a sports media market like New York, the credibility of a writer’s work can sometimes be called into question if the writer is not careful with his or her reporting. Vaccaro believes that the most important thing that he has learned during his career is the importance of accountability, something that Tarmac writers have always been taught.
“That’s lesson number one of journalism,” Vaccaro said. “You’d better have your sources secure, you’d better have your opinions backed up, and as important, you’d better be willing to stand by every word that you write.”
Darius Iraj ’15 is another former Tarmac scribe who has continued to pursue journalism after high school. Darius is now the Deputy Sports Editor-in-Chief for The Hoya, the student-run newspaper of Georgetown University.
Similar to Vaccaro, Iraj first joined divisional Tarmac as a freshman and was added to the school-wide staff as a sophomore. During his junior and senior years, he served as a sports editor. At Georgetown, Iraj has primarily covered the highly successful soccer program.
“Covering soccer at Georgetown has been incredible,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’ve covered the wrong team both years. Last year I covered the women’s soccer team, while the men’s soccer team went on a huge unbeaten streak, won the Big East Championship, and sent seven or eight players to Major League Soccer. This year I covered the losing men’s soccer team, and the women’s soccer team [went] to the Final Four. Regardless, I’ve covered an incredible program, and got to interview two really insightful coaches in Brian Wiese and Dave Nolan.”
Iraj believes that the experience he gained as a writer and editor for Tarmac has contributed to his success at The Hoya, noting, “I learned the importance of being resourceful by witnessing the opportunities that Mr. [Patrick] Reichart [’01] created for us, such as the chance to get a press pass to a St. John’s [basketball] game, by contacting people that he knows in the business.”
“[It showed me] that anyone you know can be a resource, which is huge when you are trying to develop a story,” said Iraj, who also credits former Tarmac Editor-in-Chief William Manolarakis ’14 with teaching him how to be an effective leader and mentor.
“Mano led by example, and showed me how to communicate with younger peers,” wrote Iraj in an email. “These leadership skills have been instrumental in my ability to communicate with the new staff writers that we hire at The Hoya.”
Iraj added that he is now considering a career as a professional journalist. “My current journalism professor has significantly alleviated my fears and bolstered my confidence as a journalist,” said Iraj. “Being in Washington D.C., a city with endless opportunities, and studying in a strong journalism program at Georgetown, I believe in my abilities to seize opportunities and succeed as a journalist.”
Peter Charalambous ’16, the founder of chstarmac.com and last year’s Tarmac Online Editor-in-Chief, has also continued to pursue journalism in college by joining the staff of The Dartmouth, the student-run newspaper of Dartmouth University. In his brief time with the paper, Charalambous has covered events ranging from guest speakers to new restaurant openings on campus. He says that he enjoys how the paper has allowed him to meet and speak with different people outside of the classroom.
“Working for The Dartmouth has allowed me to see a completely different side of the college, and I get to interact with a variety of different people on campus,” explained Charalambous.
Much like Iraj, Charalambous believes that he gained some important skills while still in high school.
“I learned a bunch of different things while [I was] Editor- in-Chief, from the ability to edit, to time management, to just being able to organize a staff.”
He continued, “Another crucial thing that I learned from Tarmac was just how to write better. There were so many skills that I learned through editing that also improved my writing.”
Charalambous, who is majoring in both history and government, believes that his involvement with The Dartmouth will help him excel in whichever career path he chooses.
“The Dartmouth has helped me accumulate a variety of different skills, so wherever I land four years from now, I will have the ability to succeed,” he said. “Journalism is something that I will always carry with me.”
Over the last eight decades, Tarmac has been produced by students who are committed to bringing quality reporting and storytelling to readers everywhere. The publication was recently recognized for its continued success with back-to-back New York Press Association Best Overall High School Newspaper awards, but it is the writers of the past who have helped to establish a rich tradition of excellence that make Tarmac the truly special publication it is today.