Fred Frailey Blog

The cult of Fred W

  • Comments 34

Many of you wonder why I sign each of my articles, columns, and blogs as Fred W. Frailey instead of plain old Fred Frailey. The American way, after all, is to avoid affected airs of this sort. Just who does this Frailey guy think he is, sticking that middle initial in-between the first and last names his mother and father gave him, you must be feverishly wondering?

Okay, I admit, not one of you—ever—asked about the “W” between “Fred” and “Frailey.” Based upon 30 years of my using “W” in my pen name, it’s possible that nobody on the face this each earth ever wondered. But now I feel compelled to satisfy the curiosity of yours that never existed.

Try saying to yourself five times, “Peter Piper picked a pick of pickled peppers” or some longer variant of that tongue-twister. Now do “Fred Frailey” again and again. See what I mean? You end up saying “Fred Frothly.” And that is exactly my point. You end up mispronouncing my name and it lacks gravitas. Especially, it lacks gravitas.

My first job out of college was as a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. It was the survivor of a merger in the late 1940s between Marshall Field III’s Chicago Sun, founded in 1941 as a counterweight to the ultra-conservative (then) Chicago Tribune, and the tabloid, newstand-driven Chicago Times. I guess you could say it had a split personality. When I showed up in 1966 the Sun-Times still had a few remnants of its upscale Chicago Sun staff, one of whom was its United Nations correspondent, Frederick W. Kuh. Now there was a Chicago Sun name, so distinguished and authoritative. In contrast, try Fred Kuh. Ugh. It was sinking in on me that presentation is half the war of winning reader trust.

At the same time I became aware of another Fred, he being Fred W. Friendly of CBS News. Another FWF! Here was a giant of journalism, a television producer who was a contemporary of Edward R. Murrow's (here we go again, try Ed Murrow), Murrow being the godfather of authoritative television newscasting. Fred W. Friendly was at the forefront all the wars of the 1960s and 1970s to keep network television news honest and relevant. TV journalists worship his name. So do I.

I waffled about what to call myself during my Sun-Times years. But upon going to U.S. News & World Report, I made the big switch. I'm very comfortable with that pen name.

That’s why I’m Fred W. Frailey and not just Fred. But should we ever meet and I introduce myself as anything other than Fred, please knock me to the floor.—Fred (W.) Frailey


  • It must be a really slow news day - Fred (W).

  • Well I guess I got lucky in sharing the same first initial and family name of those who preceeded me. It's much easier riding someone else's coattails.

    I would point out that Ed Murrow went by "Edward R. Murrow," even though his given name was Egbert. Now there was someone who personified gravitias.

  • JustaWatcher, you nailed it. I really had to dig into the old wood pile to pull that subject out. But I'm going to the Big City today, Denver, and who knows what action I will have to report!

    Fred W

  • Shall we just refer to you as "W" from now on?

    So, are you saying the Chicago Tribune is no longer "conservative"?


  • Be careful of what you wish for Fred W. Frailey.  Keep the blogs and articles coming.

  • Thanks, Fred (W) - looking forward to some more inciteful articles.  Keep them coming, wouldn't want to miss a one!!

  • MP173, you can call me anything you want but "Dear." As for the Trib, by the standards of 1941, when Marshall Field III started the Chicago Sun to support his friend Franklin Roosevelt, the Tribune is much more moderate. Col. Robert Rutherford McCormick, who effectively owned The Tribune Co. and was its editor for decades, would call today's Republican Party socialist.

    Fred W

  • On the contrary, Fred W., today's tea-party controlled Republicans would consider the Col. a socialist.  Just remember, the best that can be said about ideology is that it allows the ideologue to not think very much -- if at all.

  • So THAT'S why it's Chuck "E" Cheese!!

  • So what about Dan Dailey? Pearl Bailey? Bill Bailey? Alex Haley? Mayors Dick Dailey? Babe Paley?  Alvin Ailey? Beetle Bailey?  Not a W. in the lot there, Fred W.

  • who cares,we already knew you had a high opinion of yourself and you wasted my time and money.

  • seaboarddawg:  Not nice, not nice at all.  Fred is quite capable of defending himself -- if he even considers your comment worth a response.  I wasn't aware you were required to read the Trains blogs, but on the subject of wasting money and time, you're the leader in the clubhouse.

  • Thanks Rail Pundit - my sentiments exactly

    Maybe someone has a gun to his head?

  • No problem with using a middle name or initial… Just imagine Edgar Allan Poe being referred to by just his first and last name… Edgar Poe… or Ed Poe?

    Lots of great Americans have commonly used their middle name or initials, like Edward G. Robinson… was that “G” as in “gangster”?

    Some noted Americans made their first name the initial…  like J. Edgar Hoover

    Or if you are named John Ronald Reuel Tolkien… best shorten it for the reading public to J. R. R. Tolkien

    Others just dropped the last name… George W

    And yet some just adopted the middle name and drop the first… Willard “Mitt” Romney

    Of course now days we can boil a name down to “Obama”… or “Bill and Hillary”

    Then there is the common modern tendency to use nick names instead of full first names… like Bill Clinton… how about "Tom Jefferson"?

    And of course some people have just initials like FDR or LBJ… or just one initial… “W”

    Of course there are “JR” from Dallas and “GW” from the western McLintock and of course "Mr T"

    It’s really cool when you can turn your initials into a nick name… like “Unconditional Surrender” Grant

    You could have been born with a name like "Archibald Alexander Leach" or "Marion Mitchell Morrison", and then you have no choice but to change your whole name!

    Then of course there are cats… the naming of cats is a difficult matter… cats have three different names: the one the family uses daily, the more dignified name, and a secret name. It is the cat's contemplation of the latter that keeps felines in deep thought.

    The middle initial does add gravitas which is befitting an esteemed columnist for Trains Magazine.

    I like the bit about newspaper and broadcast history, I didn't know that the Sun-Times was a merger between a tabloid and a broadsheet, its like if the Herald Tribune had merged with the Daily News.

  • Seaboardawg, I probably did waste your time. The title of the blog should have told you that 1) its humor day, and I may fall flat on my face, and 2) this won't be hard-core rail stuff. I burn hot and cold, and this wasn't one of my better efforts, I would agree. I'll refund you your money if you can explain what money got wasted. If you pay extra to read me online, I sure ain't getting any of it.

    Fred (Cold and Penniless in Colorado)

The cult of Fred W