Markos Papadatos: Interviewing the Interviewer – One Thousand Miles and Memories
By Cindy Vasko
New York Jets’ quarterback, Tim Tebow, once said, “Success comes in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t come with money and it doesn’t come with fame. It comes from having a meaning in your life, doing what you love and being passionate about what you do. That’s having a life of success. When you have the ability to do what you love, love what you do and have the ability to impact people. That’s having a life of success. That’s what having a life of meaning is.” A person who is worthy of this inspirational quote is Markos Papadatos.
In September of 2012, I had the great pleasure to chat with a prolific writer, journalist, editor, educator, as well as my fellow colleague, Markos, who celebrated a career milestone with the publication of his one-thousandth career article. “When I initially started writing, I had only hoped to someday get to one thousand articles by the time I am fifty years old. I am glad that this achievement happened well before that age,” he said. “Each time I am in the grocery store shopping, or when I am driving in the car with the radio on, or when I am home watching television, or when I am in the gym working out, I always hear songs from musicians or bands that I have had the pleasure of speaking to over the years and I cannot help but smile.”
Markos is one of New York’s best-loved and most sought-after entertainment journalists who has written for Suite101 Online Magazine, Long Island Country Music Examiner, as well as Broken Records Magazine for which he served as Managing Editor and Staff Writer. His work has been published in seven states and he has won two editor’s choice awards from Suite101 for his interviews with Matt Giraud from American Idol and Nancy Wilson from the classic rock band Heart. Markos’ journalistic passion, though, seeps into other writing avenues as well. He has also been a robust contributor of diverse articles for Farmingdale and Bayside Patch (from AOL’s Patch), Yahoo’s Associated Content, Queens College’s Knight News, as well as many Greek-American outlets including Hellenic News of America, Greek Reporter, the Greek-American Herald, The Hellenic Times, The Greek Star, NEO Magazine and the Hellenic Journal, among many others.
His contributions to the Knight News have garnered many Pacemaker nominations which are the Academy Award equivalent for collegiate journalism. His awards for his work at the Knight News, the official college newspaper of Queen’s College, City University of New York, are many, with several first place honors, including: “Best College Newspaper” for 2007-2008 from the American Scholastic Press Association Award (the first-ever for City University of New York), as well as “First Place with Special Merit” from the American Scholastic Press Association Awards in 2007 and 2008 respectively.
Markos acknowledged that he has authored the most articles for Queens College in its seventy-five year history with 160 articles. In return, The Knight News presented Markos with a plaque for “outstanding contributions for the Queens College Knight News during its award-winning years 2006-2009.” “I loved working for the Queens College newspaper. At one point, the paper was between seventy-two to ninety-six pages in length, as well as in color, and one felt that they were reading the New York Times, since it had subsections in multiple categories, ranging from News, to Business, to Entertainment, to Sports, to Science/Health, to Religion, to Culture, to Music, to Travel,” he acknowledged.
The President of Queens College, James Muyskens, most recently shared his appreciation of Markos’ writing ability by stating, “I want to congratulate Markos Papadatos for his remarkable achievement of publishing one thousand articles. I know that Markos had some people along the way that didn’t see his true talent. We did recognize his talent at Queens College and, as a result, we benefited significantly from his journalistic skills and professionalism. I am confident that his milestone is just a stepping stone in what promises to be an illustrious journalistic career.”
President Muyskens wanted Markos to know that Queens College was proud of him and his achievements. Likewise, Markos’ affection for Queens College is evident. Markos expressed, “I went to one of the best colleges in New York and I really loved it there; especially during my undergraduate (BA degree) where I enhanced and sharpened many skills thanks to the support of many exceptional instructors, many of which I still keep in touch with today. With no shadow of a doubt, Queens College is the ‘crown jewel’ of the City University of New York. Their faculty is second to none and they fostered and nurtured my loves for education and journalistic writing; and I thank them wholeheartedly for that.”
Broadcast Producer and Intern Coordinator of the National Society of Leadership and Success, Tim Duffy, commented, “I went to Queens College with Markos where we became close friends. He participated as a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success. Markos is a renowned journalist in the Greek-American community. He has a keen ability to pull the most interesting information from celebrities in a matter of a few minutes. Markos has a loving youthful spirit. He has a passion for country music and shares that passion with readers all over the country.”
The accolades for Markos’ talent, however, do not end with President Muyskens and Tim Duffy. As Scott Vollweiler, the Publisher and Owner of Broken Records Magazine, noted, “Markos is a machine. His personality puts artists at ease and makes them just spill their guts. He is a true professional and I am happy to have him not only as a colleague at Broken Records Magazine, but as a friend.” “Markos is one of the most efficient and hardworking writers I’ve ever dealt with. His article turnover rate is second to none, and the passion in which he writes is magnificent. I will not be surprised when I’m hearing Markos is on number two thousand!” exclaimed Justin Sarachik, the Editor-in-Chief of Broken Records Magazine.
“Markos is driven by passion. It is this quality that has moved him to complete over one thousand articles, create lasting bonds with whom he meets, and in turn, allows him to nurture the passion in others. Markos has been steadfast in his support of my photographic work, for which I will always be grateful,” stated Laura Desantis-Olsson, the Photo Director of Broken Records Magazine.
“I am very honored and privileged to have been a part of Broken Records Magazine all of these years. I feel that I have done some of my greatest work for this noteworthy print, digital and online publication, especially my nine page, 3,250 word cover story on Alter Bridge that I wrote for their March 2011 issue, which also featured stunning live photography shots from Scott Vollweiler. To this day, the Alter Bridge piece is my lengthiest feature interview story that I have ever published,” Markos remarked. “I also enjoyed interviewing various living legends for Broken Records which included country stars Bill Anderson, George Jones and Ray Price, as well as having my own column on these great individuals entitled ‘Living Legends League.’ I also loved doing video interviews with artists for Broken Records which may be seen on their official website, as well as on their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.”
According to Nick Katsoris, the President of the Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund and author of the “Loukoumi” children’s book series, he expressed, “Congratulations to Markos Papadatos on his amazing one-thousandth career article. A monumental accomplishment by a wonderful journalist whose attention to detail and integrity should be emulated by reporters everywhere.”
Mark Logsdon, Senior Publicist and Marketing Executive of the acclaimed country music public relations firm, PLA Media, added, “Who would have thought that New York would house of one of our favorite journalists in the country music market! Markos is a great contact and our artists love speaking with him because he is one of the few that does extensive research on them to prepare for each interview. We always discover something new about our clients upon reading the published articles. Congrats Markos on publishing one-thousand interviews/reviews! We greatly appreciate your support and look forward to the next one thousand!”
“One of the many great things about working with Markos is that he has the passion for his work as a writer and reporter. He does his research and all of my artists enjoy talking with him. He’s like an old friend on the phone and always makes our artists feel comfortable,” remarked veteran publicist Ken Phillips, Owner of the Ken Phillips Publicity Group.
“Working with Markos has been wonderful. He always does his homework before interviewing my clients and that in itself speaks volumes. There is nothing worse that setting your client up for an interview where the host has no clue about what’s going on. Markos always does a great job and his timeliness in posting the news story is amazing,” stated Don Murry Grubbs, the President of Absolute Publicity.
Markos continued, “I am also proud that over the years I have had the good fortune to interview some amazing interviewers, reporters and radio personalities such as Fox news anchor Ernie Anastos, radio vet Shannon McCombs from Nashville, Tennessee, Annie Reuter, the associate music producer of CBS Radio, as well as Bob Bronson and Christine Nagy from New York’s 106.7 Lite FM, among others. I feel that they have interviewed so many big names and have had so many memorable experiences with them and it is great to see things through their perspective.”
“Congratulations Markos,” exclaimed veteran Fox 5 news anchor Ernie Anastos. “You are a shining star and a tribute to the profession. Here’s to another 1,000 interviews.”
Christine Nagy added, “Markos is one of the most prepared, studied and passionate interviewers that I have ever met. Markos’ kind, warm manner puts any person he’s interviewing at ease and then his base of knowledge makes the whole process fun and easy. Markos loves music and is interested in every genre and personality. He is open enough to welcome other people’s opinions and professional enough to never impose his own upon an interview. His reviews of concerts are always spot on and fair. I would welcome the chance to work with Markos again and I am honored that my work stood out to him enough that he did a feature on me.”
“What an easy interview, and such an incredible writer. His talent is a gift to the music world,” stated acclaimed country radio and television personality Shannon McCombs.
“Markos covers the popular music scene with a vigor and enthusiasm that is rare in today’s market,” said Natalie A. Kilgore, the president of the publicity firm, Dashboard Media, LLC. “In a landscape with an outstanding number of promotional platforms churning out information at a mile a minute, it’s refreshing to work with a writer who has a true passion for music and who works tirelessly to creatively enhance the profile of his subjects.”
“As we both do the same thing [interviewing country singers for Suite101], we could have been bitter rivals, but Markos saw to it that we became good friends. He is always there to help out and offer advice and his dedication to his craft has seen him chat to some of the biggest names in sports and popular culture around the world. If I were a singer, sportsman, TV presenter or actor, he would be the first person that I would go to for a career-boosting interview. Congratulations Markos and here’s to the next one thousand articles,” said fellow journalist Adrian Peel.
In connection with his journalism vocation, Markos is also a licensed primary school teacher. “I earned my Master’s degree in elementary education from Queens College and my post-Master’s certificate in literacy, a field that combines my love for reading and writing. I love teaching just as much, if not more, than journalism. Over the years, I have the good fortune to teach second grade, fourth grade, reading intervention and science to elementary children and I enjoyed every minute of that. My goal in life is someday to pass on my love for writing, reporting and interviewing to the younger generations,” he said.
Markos further noted, “I also hold a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I practiced it for twelve years. It was a lot of fun and I learned a great deal of discipline, courtesy, integrity from the sport. I even had the opportunity to compete in a few tournaments which was an exciting feeling; however, I have yet to use the martial art to defend myself in a real-life situation. I guess that is a good thing,” he says with a laugh. “What people might not know about me is that I volunteered at the Ozanam Hall Queens Nursing Home for six years of my life (during my junior high school, high school and early college days) and it was such an invaluable experience since it exposed me to an ever-increasing population, the aged and infirm. It was great getting to know the nursing home residents and their families.”
In light of all of the many tributes from Markos’ colleagues, it is difficult to imagine that one of his high school teachers at his former high school, situated in Fresh Meadows, New York, told him he was “dreaming” given his desire to pursue a career in journalism. Fortunately, this unwarranted criticism did not prevent Markos from traveling the journalistic road and acknowledged, “If I were not in entertainment journalism or elementary education, I would be a journalism instructor at the college level and teach aspiring writing students, but unlike my high school teacher, I would work with them an effort to improve their writing. I would not critique or belittle them since I feel that anybody can become a good writer as long as they put their mind and heart into it.”
Markos affirmed, nonetheless, that his journey was not an easy ride. “There were many articles of mine that never saw the light of day, especially early in my career and there were tons of rejections; however, I have overcome the majority of these rejections through perseverance and I learned through trial and error and taught myself the tools of the trade,” he said. “There were also many times where my interviews had to be rescheduled by the press managers due to timing constraints and scheduling issues due to the artists’ hectic schedules or the fact that they were traveling in regions where they had no cell phone receptions, and there were many last minute cancellations as a result, but for the most part, things eventually worked out.”
Markos has interviewed and written about a host of celebrities and singers from almost every genre of music, including country, pop, rock, gospel, indie, heavy metal and dance. With regard to his interviewing and writing style, he said, “I focus on the positives of each musician and I want to bring out the best in them in my stories. If the readers know nothing about those musicians/celebrities that I interview, my goal is to introduce them to the public so that they can get to know them as intimately as possible by the completion of the published story. That way it is a mutual relationship and the readers are happy.”
According to Markos, “My writing philosophy is as follows: If I am granted a fifteen minute interview with any individual [whether it is in-person or over the phone], my goal is to write that article (which may range anywhere from four hundred to one thousand words depending on the word count that is decided by the publisher) as soon as possible, while it is fresh in my mind. I was never a fan of procrastination so I try to have it published within a matter of a few hours since on many occasions I have done multiple interviews in one day. After I publish it, I immediately send a copy of the finished product or link to the person that arranged the interview for me whether it is a press agent or artist manager. I feel successful when the interviewee and his/her fans enjoy it in return and their reps send me ‘thank you’ e-mails and when they tell me that they will pass it on to their artists and the rest of their teams. The ultimate honor is if they re-post my article on their official website and/or their Facebook and Twitter pages. Some of these musicians and bands have hundreds of thousands or millions of Facebook/Twitter followers and I am stoked when my articles are embedded in their social networks.”
Although he has a long list of favorites among his one thousand features and the “favorites” are too numerous to list, a few interviews, though, stand out, such as Martina McBride, Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart, Dame Vera Lynn, Merle Haggard, Rascal Flatts, Julie Roberts, Dale Ann Bradley, Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson from The Bangles, Gilles Marini, Jeff Timmons from 98 Degrees. “Gilles Marini and Jeff Timmons are two of the nicest people one can ever meet in the entertainment industry. They are true gentlemen as well as humble and outgoing individuals. They are very serious about their work and they are exceptional at what they do. They are loving husbands and fathers. I am also in awe of their charity work and how they work for such noteworthy causes. They are utterly fantastic and my hat goes off to them,” Markos remarked.
Other impressive interviews include pop sensation Joe Jonas, American Idol winners Kris Allen and Phillip Phillips, country musicians James Wesley, Hunter Hayes, Justin Moore and James Otto, as well as Markos’ childhood role model, Greek athlete Nikos Kaklamanakis. “Another proud moment of mine was when I interviewed the amazing Nikos Kaklamanakis, a 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist and 2004 Olympic Silver medalist in windsurfing. I idolized him growing up in Greece, and to be able to interview him this past summer via phone in my native language, Modern Greek, was absolutely incredible. I remember when I lived in Greece, after he had won his Olympic Gold in 1996, the national telephone company, OTE, made calling cards in his honor and I used to collect them, so it was a dream come true to interview my childhood hero who was honored with his own calling card,” he admitted.
Markos recalls the emotions he felt during his first music interview. His first interview was with with country music artist, Chuck Wicks, for Queens College’s Knight News. He said, “I remember being so excited and nervous at the same time since I didn’t know what to expect since I learned the tools of the trade from trial and error. Fortunately, it went very well and Chuck was such a great guy. I am honored to have interviewed him again since we initially spoke and just being able to witness my growth as a writer was an awesome feeling.”
His female dream interview list is already complete with his interviews of Martina McBride and Emmylou Harris; however, he added that it would be a plus to interview Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless and Lee Ann Womack someday. “I love Lee Ann, Patty and Alison. They have the most mellifluous and angelic female voices in contemporary music!” he exclaimed.
Interviewing country queen Martina McBride was yet another dream come true for Markos. “She is my all-time favorite female singer in music,” he exclaimed. “My interview with Martina took place on October 14, 2011, at a ‘pink carpet’ press event for breast cancer awareness that was held at the legendary Empire State Building in New York City on the day before my birthday, along with my publisher, Scott Vollweiler from Broken Records Magazine. It was such a magical feeling, and it was one of my pinnacle moments in my journalism career. Following that interview, Scott and I, as well as a few other esteemed journalists, air personalities and several contest winners were treated to a fantastic live concert of McBride’s on the eighty-sixth floor of the Empire State Building, where she showcased her trademark pipes while simultaneously raising awareness for a good cause. In that moment, everything that I had dreamed about in my life had become a reality.”
“I met Markos a year ago while covering Martina McBride’s performance at the Empire State Building for breast cancer awareness and we’ve been friends ever since. His passion and excitement for music journalism is unlike anyone I’ve seen in the field. He continues to impress me with his interviews and his ability to turn around his stories so quickly. It’s easy to see it’s a job he loves to do and that comes across time and time again with every article he writes. 1,000 articles is a career milestone and I’m so happy I was a part of one of those articles. Markos is going places and I’m glad to be able to watch him along the way! He’s an inspiration to all,” added New York music journalist Annie Reuter.
When asked to identify his dream interview list, Markos said amongst males, the list includes New York Jets’ quarterback, Tim Tebow, as well as Josh Groban, since according to Markos, Groban possesses the “best male voice in the world,” but his dream list also includes, and as I note this with a smile, David Cook, in honor of me, because Cook is my favorite musician. Markos exclaimed, “I just love Tim Tebow. Ever since I read his book ‘A Quarterback’s Journey,’ I was blown away by his amazing traits, goals and values. I also admire Tim Tebow’s hard work ethic and love for mankind. Tim is an exceptional man of great character!” He further noted, “I have a great deal of respect for David Cook as well. I loved him on American Idol since he was able to take any popular song and make it his own. He is a very talented musician who pours his heart out while singing and the audience can relate to his moving songs.”
He recalled, “After interviewing and meeting many stars in pop, rock and heavy metal music, several of them have been egoistic and at times arrogant and selfish. There were times, when I had wanted to give up on music journalism, but then in 2011, I had the great fortune to meet and interview Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers. He was the total antithesis of all of that. He was really nice, courteous and gave me great eye contact and treated me and all of the reporters that day at the press event with utmost respect and professionalism. Thanks to great artists like Joe, I had enough motivation to keep going.”
With regard to other memorable interviews, Markos exclaimed, “I consider the interviews that I have done with Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart to be ‘gifts’ from two rock and roll goddesses. Not only are they iconic women with immense talent, but they were very grounded, kind, and very down-to-earth. Interviewing the legendary Dame Vera Lynn at the age of ninety-four, was yet another milestone, since she is perhaps the second most accomplished and decorated woman in the United Kingdom, right after the Queen herself.”
When asked what advice Markos would offer to aspiring journalists, he said emphatically, “Be punctual! Start writing early and find a topic that is of interest to you, whether it is in education, arts, entertainment, music, sports, literature, politics or business. Get published anywhere you can, whether it is in the college paper, poetry magazine, or online publications. The internet is a great way to get your work out there. Some of my greatest writing pieces are a result of online media/journalism.”
Markos is appreciative of the support and guidance afforded him during the last seven and one-half years of his journalism career. In closing, Markos thanked many for this support, including: his college professors Doreen Schmitt (from the Anthropology and Linguistic Departments of Queens College) and David Leventhal (from the BALA Department of Queens College).
“I also want to take the time to express my gratitude towards my former biology teacher at I.S. 25 Queens, the late Dr. Harold ‘Doc’ Friend,” Markos said. “Not only was he an extraordinary educator, but he was also a great friend, writer/journalist and a true expert in baseball and baseball history who had authored thousands of baseball-related articles. Alas, Doc passed away in August of 2012, but I will never forget all of the invaluable advice he has given to me over the years in the fields of education and journalism. Teachers like that come once in a lifetime and Doc was a true gem. We miss you Doc!”
“Thank you Scott Vollweiler, Justin Sarachik, and the staff writers and photographers of Broken Records Magazine, and to my parents, friends, acquaintances and writing colleges (Cindy Vasko included), as well as every publicist that I’ve ever worked with. I would like to thank all of the press agents and reps out there for entrusting me with your artists and the music fans and readers out there for reading them. I would like to say a huge thank you to Tina Wiskemann for her patience and for being the best copy-editor, proofreader and advisor out there. Had it not been for all of you, I most certainly would not be where I am today. I’m glad you found my pieces insightful. Here’s to one-thousand more,” he concluded.
It is quite obvious from the glowing commentary recognized in this article that a “Markos fan club” is already in the works. Markos has solidified a name for himself within the competitive arena of journalism, and his future endeavors are most certainly bright. Markos is willing and ready for the telling with the next one thousand miles and memories.
Photo 1: Martina McBride and Markos Papadatos, taken by Scott Vollweiler
Photo 2: The lead singer from Rascal Flatts and Markos Papadatos, by Scott Vollweiler
Photo 3: At 106.7 lite fm studio (with Bob and Christine), taken by Laura DeSantis-Olsson