Robbie — and nobody called him
anything else — once described
Travel Weekly’s mission this way:
to provide “faster access to pertinent news and product information and to create a medium for
the interchange of ideas and opinions.”
He said this in an era when
“faster” meant publishing weekly,
in newspaper format, when the
competition was publishing semimonthly or monthly magazines.
In today’s world, Robbie would
be a blogger of the first order.
Combining his experience as an editor for Advertising Age, as a
public relations professional with travel clients and as a director
of PR for ASTA, he launched Travel Weekly in 1958, serving as
editor and publisher for its first 11 years. His weekly Viewpoint
column remained a central feature of the paper, appearing more
than 1,200 times during a period of 25 years.
A firm believer in the value of continuing professional education for travel agents, he was an early and vocal supporter of the
Institute for Certified Travel Agents, now the Travel Institute.
He was a demanding boss, and his disagreements with staff were
not always carried out in a whisper, but he succeeded and earned
the industry’s respect because he was a triple threat: a savvy businessman, an accomplished writer and editor and an astute observer of the travel business who cared very deeply about it.
If Robbie’s first major contribution to Travel Weekly was to create it, his second was to hire Alan
A former doo-wop disc jockey
making a career change into journalism, Fredericks came to Travel
Weekly in 1966 as a writer-editor
and never left.
The new recruit became managing editor in 1969, and three
years later he began a 25-year stint
as editor in chief, guiding the paper through periods of explosive
growth, economic shocks and technological change. After 1997
until his death in 2005, he remained active in the affairs of the
publication and its parent company as vice president, editorial director, columnist and role model.
As a journalist and manager, he set a standard and led by example, for he was an inquisitive and accurate reporter, a clear and
graceful writer, a fair-minded analyst.
But what no one could hope to emulate was Alan’s ability to relate to people. He was a sympathetic listener but an even better
talker. For Alan, engaging and witty conversation was an art form.
And in front of a crowd as an emcee or moderator, he was Mozart
with a microphone.
In the industry he is remembered as an award-winning journalist and as one of the most prominent trade publishing executives
of his era.
Among his former co-workers, he is remembered with fondness,
gratitude and awe.
Continued from Page 10
dently expected to showcase on Page One when
we went to press later that day … only to walk
out of the meeting a short time later with no
news stories to run and the threat of a Front
Page with nothing on it but the TW logo and
masthead. All the prospective articles had been
shot down by Editor in Chief Alan Fredericks,
who ran the meeting and who correctly pointed out that each story under consideration was
missing essential facts, was old news, failed to
examine all the angles, didn’t represent both
sides of the issue, or, most important, did not
address the needs and interests of our readers.
One or two of the articles failed on all counts,
as I recall.
“What do I do about filling Page One?” I
“Get better stories,” he replied.
All these years later, it is still good advice
for editors and writers alike: OK is not good
enough. Get better stories.
Former senior editor
Before joining Travel Weekly in
November 1966, when it was
based in New York, I had been
a reporter on the Niagara Falls
(N.Y.) Gazette for about two
years. On the Gazette’s news-room bulletin board was this
advisory: Never Assume Anything.
Maybe I can blame it on the jet lag, but that
common-sense reminder slipped my mind during an assignment in Honolulu in 1970 where
I covered the Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
I had “assumed” that the lieutenant governor
of Hawaii was speaking for the state administration, including the governor, when he told the
audience that he endorsed a tax on hotel rooms
to help finance an Oahu convention center.
In New York, the lieutenant governor and
governor tend to agree on things. But in 1970 in
Hawaii, that was not the case. The Aloha Spirit
eluded these two guys.
Thus, I made my worst mistake in a 36-year
career at TW, writing the lead, front page story.
The headline stated that the current administration backed the hotel room tax, and the story
implied that such a tax was forthcoming.
But the governor was solidly against the tax,
I later learned.
Not only did TW run the mandatory correction, but the Honolulu newspapers ran
their own stories on TW’s error, not mentioning my name.
The only bright spot: At least it wasn’t the
kind of error where the newspaper gets sued
Former West Coast bureau chief
Irwin Robinson, Travel Weekly’s founder, was
no longer its publisher in 1970 when I moved to
the West Coast to open a news
bureau for the paper. But Robbie (as he was known) was still
very much the face and the soul
of TW, with a regular Page One
I discovered quickly how Mr. Robinson’s
identity as simply “Robbie” played into the
equation when a tour operator in Los Angeles,
trying to impress me, the new boy, said, “Irv and
I go back many years. He’s a dear friend.”
I mentioned this exchange to Robbie a few
days later. He laughed that infectious laugh of
his. “Jerry,” he said, “if anybody ever again tries
to tell you they’ve known me for years and refers
to me as anything other than Robbie, you have
my permission to call them a liar.”
Former executive editor
It was a place of vibrant energy
the likes of which I had never
before experienced and haven’t
since. The Travel Weekly news-room, as it existed on my first
day of work back in the winter
of 1990, was a noisy, crowded,
smoky office on the fourth floor of a building
in the Jersey Meadowlands. Hired as a copy editor, I took my place at a set of messy desks one
row back from advertising. Recalling the scene,
there was one person who left an indelible mark
on my memory and whose appearance helped
settle my first-day jitters.
“Have you met Charlie Taylor yet? He’s executive editor,” said a co-worker. “No,” I replied, my
anxiety rising at the thought of a formal introduction. “That’s him, there,” the person said. I
looked up to see a tall, middle-aged man, blond
hair askew, walking down the corridor with a
purposeful stride. A white surgeon’s mask covered his mouth and nose. “He’s trying not to
catch the flu,” explained the co-worker. I smiled,
now assured that my own idiosyncrasies would
be tolerated here.
I soon came to admire and feel at home with
the many notable characters on staff who helped
shape the publication in ways sometimes too
subtle to notice.
Former managing editor
Certain secrets of One Park
Avenue only came out at night.
Twenty-five years ago, our
then-executive editor, Charlie Taylor, was working us half
to death on Travel Weekly’s
25 Anniversary issue. It was
a monumental undertaking, the biggest issue
ever produced by TW. For reasons known only
to himself, Charlie thought staffers who worked
from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. were more dedicated than,
say, those who worked from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. So
it was that I found myself dozing on the floor of
the TW library in the middle of the night and
awakened nose-to-nose with a mouse. It scarred
my psyche for life.