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Alumni of the Month

February 2014
Chris Vaccaro

Chris Vaccaro Q & A:

What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My favorite professor was Walter Middlebrook, who has since moved to Detroit where he is assistant managing editor of The Detroit News. He shared a wealth of experience and knowledge, and I was always impressed by his attention to detail. He taught JRNL 13, Advanced Newswriting and Reporting, a class I have taught as an adjunct now at Hofstra.
My fondest memory at Hofstra is the time I spent as sports editor of The Chronicle. It was a priceless experience that played a major factor in my early career development, and also allowed me to meet some of my best friends.

What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
I was fortunate enough to get my first job in journalism while I was still a senior at Hofstra. I was hired as a sportswriter for the Southampton Press on Long Island. I was only in that role for about six months before I left to take a job as an online sports editor at the New York Daily News. Between my first two jobs, I learned a ton about sacrifice, climbing the ladder working as part of a team and following orders. Anyone can write a story, but dealing with a staff of writers and editors, all functioning differently, can be a challenge if you’re fresh out of the gate.

What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry? I have a degree in print journalism, but my career has been focused largely in digital media. Since I was 15, I’ve been writing for newspapers, magazines and websites, so journalism has always been at the core of what I do. I’ve managed to propel my roles from print to Web to social to mobile, with some broadcast mixed in.

What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
I say this to all the Hofstra students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching: Take advantage of the opportunities around you. No matter what major or career course you’re headed toward, there is something for you. For me, it was the school paper. For others, it’s radio or television or something else. The out-of-class experience is vital for growing professionally and socially. Take advantage of what’s offered and you won’t be sorry.

In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
Pride.

Where did you get the idea for the Hofstra Athletics book project?
I had written four previous books, and one of them was a similar historic format filled with old photos that help tell a story about the foundation and forefathers of institutions. It was important for me to help tell the story of Hofstra Athletics. Fortunately, Stephen Gorchov from Hofstra’s Office of Athletic Communications, a fellow Hofstra alumnus and friend, as well as former Hofstra Athletic Director Jack Hayes felt the same way, and they were instrumental in the completion of the project.

What is your favorite thing about working at Topps?
It’s really a ton of fun. When I tell people I work for the world’s most famous baseball card company, their eyes light up and they always have a story about their cards, or Bazooka gum (Topps still owns Bazooka, but they don’t put gum in physical card packs anymore). Ironically, my job has nothing to do with physical baseball cards and everything to do with taking a legacy sports company and evolving it toward digital platforms. Our digital team has launched three apps – BUNT, HUDDLE and KICK – that combine digital card collecting, fantasy sports, news and information to make for a unique experience, all on smartphones and tablets. Every day is an adventure.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you see your career progressing in the future?
I’m always focused on the next step, the next plateau and how to achieve a number of immediate goals that lead to bigger achievements … always. Ten years is a long time from now, especially considering all that’s happened in my career over the last 10 years. I’d like to be working as an executive in the digital media industry.

Chris Vaccaro

Chris R. Vaccaro (BA 2007) is an award-winning journalist, author and professor from Long Island. He is senior sports editor for Topps Digital, a tech startup located within the iconic American trading card company. He is also an adjunct journalism professor at Hofstra University; publisher of SachemReport.com, a local news website in his community; and a board member and officer with Press Club of Long Island, the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the author of five books about Long Island sports history, including Hofstra Athletics, published by Arcadia in 2012. He resides with his wife, Theresa, in Holbrook, New York.