t's hard to know how to begin a column about Alan Fredericks. I suppose I could start by telling what a warm-hearted person he is, or about how intelligent he is, or what a great sense of humor he has.

But my earliest memories of Alan are about enlightenment.

"You've almost got it, but not quite," he said to me one day back in, oh, 1991, when I was a copy editor writing headlines for Travel Weekly.

Two mornings a week I'd set out to write the front-page headlines. I was an experienced headline writer, or so I thought, and I loved writing headlines.

Trouble was, I knew next to nothing about the industry, having joined the publication just a year earlier. So while I could string together words that fit the space, they weren't always the right words.

I recall one time when I wrote a lead headline that I loved, but Alan didn't. I held my ground and argued the case.

That's when he told me I almost got it right -- but not entirely.

And in a very kindly way he added, "Trust me. I've been doing this since you were in kindergarten."

He went on to explain how and why a certain other set of words would better convey the sense of the story.

I turned and looked up at him, standing over my shoulder the way he was, and it seemed like someone had just turned the lights on.

Here was an editor-in-chief eager to spend his time showing the ropes to a new kid on the block. That is not how it is in most newsrooms.

Over the years, Alan has taught me plenty -- and about much more than headlines.

He has helped me understand the intricacies of the industry ... provided insights into the people who steer the industry ... coached me on how a particular piece of news means different things to different industry segments.

But travel industry aside, Alan has taught me and lots of others at Travel Weekly about the really important things in life, like honesty and integrity and fair play.

Alan joined Travel Weekly in 1966 and was its editor-in-chief from 1972 to 1997. Now he's our editorial director, responsible for a portfolio of news publications, Web sites and magazines. May 8 marks 35 years with Travel Weekly.

I e-mailed him a few days ago to say that we planned to run a short article about this milestone event.

But he immediately wrote back and quashed the idea. He didn't want any mention of his anniversary to appear on the news pages.

So I decided instead to dedicate this column to him.

Thanks, Alan, for everything. And congratulations.

Donna Tunney is executive editor of Travel Weekly, TWcrossroads and Travel Management Daily.

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