The first time I watched Alan
Fredericks in action was at an ASTA Western Regional conference in
the early 1990s. The meeting was held at sea, aboard a Princess
ship that was repositioning between Vancouver and Los Angeles. Alan
was moderating a panel discussion. To say that Alan was a good
moderator is like saying that Julia Child was a good cook. And the
analogy is apt: To Alan, panelists were ingredients, and it was his
job to mix them together in just the right way to create something
The key ingredient,
however, was the audience. Alan often moderated while standing
among those who had walked into the room as spectators.
If it ended up that
he asked questions that the audience really wanted to hear asked,
it may well have been because he literally and figuratively saw
things from their point of view.
And he gave them a
chance to express those views. One part Ted Koppel, one part Phil
Donahue, Alan would ask an insightful question to get things going
and then solicit feedback and more questions from audience
(Alans abilities as
a great editor werent limited to printed news articles. He once
confided to me that the key to pacing live formats was never
letting go of the microphone. Just point it at the audience
members. If they begin to go on too long, just pull the mike away,
The result was not
only informative, it was entertaining. Alan was sharp and
comfortable in front of audiences and had a great sense of
and wit also came through in his print column, but for those of you
who never saw him live, Ill tell you what separated him from other
good public speakers: His voice.
He held a degree in
broadcasting from New York University, and before he began working
in the travel industry, he had honed his delivery for a decade in
front of microphones, speaking to audiences he couldnt see but with
whom he shared common interests.
He was a doo-wop DJ
in the New York area for most of that period and often went out
among his fans, hosting sock hops and concerts.
He even put in some
time as an emcee at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
As it turned out,
Alans ability to connect with audiences was medium-neutral. When he
made the move to Travel Weekly, the adjustment went
One travel agent
reader, responding to a column he had written, said it in a way
that made Alan proud: We think it, and you write it.
That click, that
human connection, extended not only to travel agents but to
suppliers, public relations agents and his co-workers, as
Alan and I had
become friends before either of us knew I would eventually become
one of his successors as editor in chief of Travel
After I came
aboard, our friendship deepened considerably, and I found his
advice and support invaluable.
It seemed to me
remarkable that he always encouraged me to be experimental, even
when a new approach would result in changing a policy that he had
And as everyone
working at Travel Weekly knows, it was simply fun to have a
conversation with Alan.
He could talk about
travel, sports, classical music, cinema, business, pop culture and
literature with equal ease.
(These were among
the chief topics in conversations he and I shared -- I suspect
someone else could come up with an equally diverse
Though Alan was, by
nature, courtly -- I dont believe he ever came to work without a
tie -- he was never stiff or aloof. Conversations were often
peppered with examples from his own life, usually told with
Fredericks life was an intellectual restlessness, a deep-seated
curiosity and a love and appreciation for people.
It made him a great
journalist, an irreplaceable asset to the companies for which he
worked and, to co-workers and colleagues, a dear, dear
I will miss him