Joel Belz: WORLD’s history and mission

JILL NELSON, HOST: Today is Wednesday, August 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Jill Nelson.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Next up, did you know this podcast is the grandchild of a children’s magazine? Here’s Joel Belz with the history nearly 40 years in the making.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: Do you remember the name of the very first daily newspaper you got serious about reading? Or what prompted that behavior in the first place?

For me, it was the Des Moines Register that first hooked me with a daily exposure to the fascinating size, variety, and color of God’s great world. Later, I graduated to The Wall Street Journal—a paper my parents read religiously.

But another newspaper shaped my life even more permanently. It was called My Weekly Reader, and although it wasn’t in the same journalistic league with the Register and the Journal, its circulation—at one point over four million—easily topped both of them.

My Weekly Reader was distributed through schools across America, virtually free to the children and their parents. World news, written for kids.

It was exactly such a memory in 1981 that prompted me to propose to the organization where I was working that we create a weekly newspaper for Christian children. World news, written for kids—but from a Biblical perspective.

Our first edition—called It’s God’s World—appeared as the 1981 school year opened. Our lead story highlighted the strike of the air traffic controllers and President Ronald Reagan’s firm response. For that story and hundreds that followed, we sought to pursue fascinating coverage of current events, written on an age-appropriate level, and always with Biblical truth in mind. Soon circulation soared to over 250,000 a week—mostly through Christian and home schools.

Two significant events followed. First, parents of our young readers more and more frequently came back to us, saying: “We like this. We read this with our kids. When are you going to do an edition for adults?”

Wisely or not, we listened. WORLD magazine appeared in 1986. No, the God’s World News papers are not a junior version of WORLD. WORLD is actually, and historically, a senior version of the kids’ papers!

The second significant event was the advent of the internet. Digital publishing soon threatened print media everywhere—including The Weekly Reader’s and its four million circulation. Today, it’s no longer in business.

But in God’s providence, God’s World News remains very much in business! We publish at three levels: Early readers will find God’s Big World a good fit, elementary students enjoy WORLDkids, and young teens appreciate WORLDteen. Stories vary among the three levels, covering progressively more detailed topics and concepts, but not news topics that parents would need to censor.

This may come as a shock to you podcast listeners, but each of these levels still prints each month. They also have their own interactive websites and mobile apps. Our goal is to have the necessary technological package to bring solid world news—from Biblical mindset to tens of thousands of inquiring minds.

What’s your goal? Maybe you can think of a child, a family, or even a school classroom that would benefit from your gift invested on their behalf. We will welcome your involvement.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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