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 special.

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 members.

(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, he said.)

The result was not only informative, it was entertaining. Alan was sharp and comfortable in front of audiences and had a great sense of humor.

His intelligence 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 smoothly.

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 well.

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 Weekly.

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 instituted.

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 list.)

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 self-deprecating humor.

Driving Alan 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 friend.

I will miss him greatly.


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