>Packaging news for children: Interview with Norm Bomer

>by Glenda Mathes

Norm Bomer is the Senior Editor of God’s World News (GWN) and was its founding editor in 1981. He also is a talented writer and the author of several books including his memoir, Sons of the River. I recently had the opportunity to interview him via email.

GM: Your memoir, Sons of the River, is beautiful for its poetic prose and its depiction of relationships between family members and friends. What led to its writing?

NB: The writing of Sons of the River was sparked by our church’s first “hymn of the month”—either a familiar or an unfamiliar hymn chosen to be sung every week for one month during worship. That hymn was “Our God Our Help in Ages Past”—a very familiar one. As with so many other hymns, I knew all the words and usually sang them without thinking much about their meaning.

This time was different. The verse that begins, “Time like an ever-rolling stream” hit me as never before. Time “bears all its sons away.” But the words are not just about death. They are about the fact that a human does not really make his mark through his own merit. Life is short. And so are memories. Those sons who pass away are soon forgotten. They “fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.”

Suddenly I was struck with the fact that I now had personal friends who had already died. Only a few people remember them, and they will soon be gone too. Was there anything about their lives on earth worth remembering?

Oddly, the name and face of an actor popped into my mind too: Franchot Tone.

GM: Who is Franchot Tone? I’ve never heard of him.

NB: I’m not surprised. But 60 or more years ago, virtually the whole world knew him. He was a beloved and highly acclaimed Hollywood star. I admired him. And he had a smile exactly like my friend Clayton Hoke.

The bottom line is this: There is no eternal hope in ourselves. Only God is “our hope for years to come . . . and our eternal home.” But there are things worth remembering. The Bible tells me so. And I wanted to remind others of that fact, not to brag about human accomplishment, but to glory in the fact that life in Christ does have meaning that lasts forever.

My early years in the small Nebraska town of Ewing made a huge and lasting impression on my heart. Few people have ever heard of Ewing, Nebraska, or known the people who made it live—people such as my lifelong friends Gordon Shrader and Clayton Hoke. I wanted to tell their story, which includes the story of their ancestors. For not only had that story intrigued me all my life, I saw it as everyone’s story—a reminder that life is worth living, that it has eternal meaning in Christ, and that true, eternal hope includes remembering what God has done on earth.

GM: How did the memoir writing process affect you?

NB: The writing itself was a cathartic experience for me. As a professional writer, I whip things out and meet deadlines regularly. But this was different. Although the book is not a long one, I spent three years creating it, usually writing in the dead of night when I and my memories were the only ones awake in the world. It was my sincere desire to create something beautiful, not only in theme but in form.

GM: You definitely accomplished that. Sons of the River has beautiful writing as well as beautiful content. What other books have you written?

NB: I’ve written No More Singing, published by Paideia Press; Willow, published by Baker Book House; Etymology for Wordbrains Like Me, published by Wordbrain Paperbacks (GWP); and Adventures in Etymology for Wordbrains Like Me, Wordbrain Paperbacks.

GM: Let’s talk about your professional writing and regular deadlines. God’s World News produces four different monthly current events magazines at age-appropriate levels to help elementary and middle school students develop Christian character and learn to discern. These magazines remind me of the “Weekly Readers” from my grade school days, and I tend to think of them as “Reformed Weekly Readers.” How would you describe God’s World News as well as its mission and purpose?

NB: “Reformed Weekly Readers” would be a fair description, although they have now become monthly readers. The word “Reformed” is avoided in the context of GWN published materials, since many orthodox Christians react negatively to that term. The base of current events, biblical editorial analysis, and related features remains. And the core focus remains Christian worldview, promoting biblical discernment in students. The presentation now includes specific connections to the major academic areas of Christian school/home school curricula.

GM: Developing a biblical worldview is a lofty ideal, but how does that play out in practical terms in the pages of a current events magazine?

NB: All publications are written from a distinct worldview. Liberal, secular media masquerade as “neutral.” That masquerade is a powerful weapon. Readers are led to believe that the front page of a newspaper is just “fact,” and that opinions are exclusive to the editorial pages. Not true. The most influential opinion molders are on the front pages, where writers carefully pick and choose the stories you will see, carefully pick and choose the details they want you to hear, and carefully censor out what they do not want you to hear or think about. They also carefully choose quotes that build their cases—a media tool known as “journalistic ventriloquism.”

Like all news media, God’s World News is not neutral. We also carefully pick and choose the news stories we present and the details we believe our readers at each level should know about. The difference is, at GWN and in GWN we are honest about our non-neutrality. But more important than that, we diligently strive to be biblical, to tell the truth, to be honest and fair.

Our “Newsthink” editorials comment at length on particular current events, encouraging students to analyze them through the eyes of Scripture. In addition, we often append news stories with relevant Bible verses, questions for discussion, and sometimes brief editorial comments under the heading “Bible2Life.” We also supplement our print publications with online teaching tools, including a biography series that includes biblical commentary.

GM: What is the relationship of God’s World News (GWN) to WORLD magazine and how did that relationship develop?

NB: During the first several years of publishing God’s World News, parents and teachers frequently expressed interest in the creation of a similar current events magazine for adults, one presented from a biblical editorial perspective. WORLD magazine is the product of that interest. It was first published in the mid 1980s and was financed largely through the success of God’s World News. Today, both publications are governed by the same board of directors, as is the World Journalism Institute.

GM: I’m curious about the logistics for GWN. Where are the offices for GWN located? Where are production and mailing handled? How do you get your news?

NB: God’s World Publications headquarters is located in Asheville, North Carolina, although the staff of WORLD magazine is scattered throughout the country. Printing and mailing are done by a company in Pennsylvania. We are members of the Associated Press and get most of our news information from AP. Some stories, of course, originate with us.

GM: What are the unique challenges faced by GWN and of your work in particular?

NB: One of the primary challenges over the years has been to encourage Christian school/home school teachers and administrators to appreciate the vital importance of teaching current events and Christian worldview—and to move beyond the traditional loyalty to textbooks. Completing a textbook should not be the primary purpose and goal of the school year in any classroom. The goal should be the proper teaching of children. The unique challenge of my particular work is also the most gratifying personally—that is, to see and explain what God’s word teaches in relation to a particular event or issue, and to do it in a manner appropriate for a particular age level.

GM: In what ways have you seen God’s hand at work through your work with GWN?

NB: Over the years, the thousands of appreciative responses and testimonials from parents, teachers, and students have reinforced the importance and effectiveness of this facet of Christian education.

GM: How can Reformed Christians support the work of GWN?

NB: I believe the biggest need continues to be a thorough and enthusiastic dedication to Christian education. Education works, period. Christian parents who send their children to Godless schools need to understand the powerful and lasting ramifications of the fact that they are indeed Godless. As for God’s World News, I suppose one of the most helpful contributions would be to encourage local Christian schools/home schools to include it in their standard educational process.

God’s World News produces 30 page editions for pre-Kindergarten through first grade (Early Edition) and second through third grades (Taking Off), as well as 38 page editions for fourth through fifth grades (News Current) and sixth through ninth grades (Top Story). The current subscription level for all four editions is 116,000. School year subscriptions include seven monthly issues (September-April), while full year subscriptions include 10 issues (every month except December and May). Subscriptions for three monthly summer issues of each edition are also available. Educational resources and subscription information for God’s World News publications can be found at: http://www.gwnews.com. More information about World is available at: http://www.worldmag.com/.

Christian Renewal Editor John Van Dyk added the following boxed article to the above interview.

Norm Bomer had this to say when asked how he became the editor of God’s World Publications:

In February 1981, we were living in Hutchinson, Kansas. A close friend in Sterling, Kansas, called to tell me he had read a news report in The Presbyterian Journal about the launching of a Christian “weekly reader” by the Journal organization. He said a search was underway for a founding editor, and that with my enthusiasm for Christian education, my Christian school teaching experience, and my writing/editing history, I was Tailor-made for the job. But when I found out the Journal was published in North Carolina, I told Carol, my wife, that I was not even going to inquire. For me anything east of the Mississippi was too foreign and too strange. Here’s a quick calendar of events:

February: phone call from my friend Harry Wilkey

February: at Carol’s urging, very brief letter of inquiry to The Presbyterian Journal

February: no response

March: no response

April: in Prinsburg, Minnesota, interviewing for a teaching position at a Christian high school. Phone call from Carol telling me Joel Belz had called from The Presbyterian Journal

April 1981: home again, spoke to Joel by phone

April 1981: flew to Asheville, North Carolina, for interview. Joel had interviewed nearly 50 candidates, but not one had met all of the half-dozen prerequisites he had established.

May 1981: sold house in Hutchinson in spite of real estate recession.

June 1981: moved to Asheville, North Carolina. Harry had been right. It was the work of the Tailor.

The above articles originally appeared on pages 33-34 of the June 23, 2010, issue of Christian Renewal.


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