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Finding the right man

A search for an editor in 1981 had long-term implications

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Time was running out. For a whole year, we’d been planning for the launch of It’s God’s World, a weekly paper to help children in the middle grades think about news and current events from a Biblical perspective.

Now it was early April of 1981. Many details had fallen into place for a late August inaugural issue. But I hadn’t found an ­editor—someone who could manage the content of this important venture.

It hadn’t been for lack of trying. Word about this project had spread around the country, in both educational and journalistic circles. I had reviewed 45 applications and resumés—including some that were pretty impressive. But each one of those 45 stumbled at one or two key points.

Along the way, the process had helped me develop a true-to-life job description. The person I was looking for had to have (1) a proven ability to write for children; (2) teaching experience in a Christian school; (3) a mature Biblical perspective on life; (4) a sensitivity to the multifaceted theological-socio-political orientation of the Christian school movement; (5) resourcefulness and an ability to pioneer; and (6) a willingness and ability to move to Asheville, N.C., no later than July 1.

Needless to say, that last point was a biggie.

I don’t remember Norm or his team ever being charged with a significant factual error.

A scattering of other historical notes is also in order. All this was before the robust explosion of the home­school movement. The reference to “pioneering” is a reminder that we had no mega-investor committed to the commercial success of the venture. And the need to relocate to Asheville helps us recall that distance-­learning and distance-managing were largely undeveloped arts in 1981.

But yes, ignoring or soft-pedaling any one of the six issues could easily deep-six the whole project. Better to delay the effort for a year.

We delayed—but in God’s providence, it didn’t need to be a year.

There was, you see, this fellow out on the plains of central Kansas. His name was Norm Bomer, and his resumé was one of the 45 I had already processed. But in his resumé he had selflessly explained how a year earlier he had been sidelined from a teaching career because of medical issues. Indeed, even now he was recovering from treatment at the famous Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. I remember thinking: I’ve got enough hoops to jump through. I don’t need to take on someone’s medical challenges along with everything else.

But now, as I said, time was running out. This Bomer fellow came closer than anyone else on my list of 45 to filling all six of my “requirements.” “Could you get on a plane,” I asked, “and come here to Asheville for a few days so we can get to know each other?”

All that was just 40 years ago. Only four months later, Norm had moved his family to Asheville. He had created the first ever issue of It’s God’s World and established a topical weekly outline for the rest of that 1981-82 school year. He had begun to assemble a staff. I don’t remember, in the midst of all that, that he had a single minute to visit a doctor.

Under Norm Bomer’s editorial leadership, the God’s World series of magazines for children came to include graded editions for kindergartners all the way to high schoolers. Although the subscriber list through the years included thousands of Christian schools and, later on, hundreds of thousands of homeschooling families, I don’t remember Norm or his team ever being charged with a significant factual error. Only in 2011, with three decades of this grueling pace under his belt, did Norm Bomer step aside as the senior editor for God’s World News.

But by then, he’d helped to set a grand stage for our future. Our offerings for students have now grown to include WORLD Watch, a daily 10-minute video newscast aimed at high schoolers and launched just last year.

And I think you’ll find that WORLD Watch rivals the original establishment of the God’s World papers for children as a significant journalistic venture.

Joel Belz

Joel is WORLD’s founder. He contributes regular commentary for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Radio. Joel has served as editor, publisher, and CEO over three decades at WORLD and is the author of Consider These Things. Joel resides with his wife, Carol, near Asheville, N.C.


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