What’s The Issue?

What’s The Issue?

Focused on sharing the stories of Waco’s residents, Wacoan strives to connect the community through print and online.

Story and Photos By Abbey Ferguson

From being stacked on shelves in local grocery stores and restaurants to being a centerpiece lying on coffee tables in homes across Waco, the Wacoan is more than just a magazine; it brings the community together. Operating since 2000, the Wacoan is free to the public and runs monthly print and online editions.   

Michelle Johnson, publisher and owner of the Wacoan, said they chose the name carefully after buying and rebranding the magazine.  

“We wanted a name that represented who we are,” she said, “and being a Wacoan is exactly what we all are. It connects us.” 

Johnson didn’t have previous experience in magazine design prior to buying the Wacoan. However, she has found a passion for the community and how the magazine continues to serve it during the last 23 years of being the owner.  

Keeping it Fresh: Wacoan production manager Brittany Ross strives to provide Waco with fresh stories.

“We just love the product,” she said. “We love Waco. And we love sharing the people of Waco.”  

Emily Ober, assistant editor of the Wacoan, assists in choosing the stories that are featured in each edition. She said she finds that the most inspiring stories highlight members of the Waco community who make an impact.  

“Everything in our magazine is community-based,” Ober said. “At the heart of everything is Waco and the people who make Waco what it is.”  

One of the Wacoan’s monthly issues, People of the 254, features 50 Waco residents and tells their stories. When asked why, Johnson said, “just because.” 

 A Learning Environment: Katie Bradshaw, an intern at the Wacoan, is a student in the Baylor Journalism, PR and New Media department. She sits in with the staff and helps write and pitch stories. 

“There are just so many different and wonderful people in Waco that everyone just needs to know,” Johnson said. “And how else do you find out about them? The magazine is a connector for that reason.” 

Johnson said she is grateful Waco is the size it is because people still want to be a part of the magazine and are bonded within the community.  

“Everything in our magazine is community-based. At the heart of everything is Waco and the people who make Waco what it is.”

– Emily Ober, Wacoan assistant editor

Their most compelling issue features nonprofits and dives into the stories of people who are driven to care for others, Johnson said. The March 2023 issue told the story of a Waco homeless coalition working to eliminate the homeless population’s challenges.   

“No one wants to talk about it, but we did,” Johnson said. “It was incredible to tell that story.”  

Johnson and Ober both said the nonprofit issue is one of their favorite issues, especially because it proves how the Wacoan connects residents and opens their eyes to what is happening in their own town.  

“It leads people to get involved in the nonprofits we feature,” Ober said.  

Searching for Spotlights: Emily Ober, assistant editor of the Wacoan, is passionate about finding impactful residents to highlight in issues of the magazine.

Another one of Johnson’s favorite features in the magazine is the Women of Interest editorial column that runs each month, which tells the story of women in Waco who are making a difference in the community.  

“I love reading [about] how these women juggle everyday life,” she said.  

Especially during the last decade, Waco has become a popular tourist attraction. However, the team at the Wacoan said they prioritize staying rooted in the community that is present and resides in Waco.  

Brittany Ross, Wacoan production manager, said they must “stay relevant on every end.”  

Wonder Woman: Apart from being the publisher and the owner of the Wacoan, Michelle Johnson serves as the editor-in-chief of the magazine. Having no experience in magazine design prior to the Wacoan, she has grown to love the position and her work.

One of their most popular issues from 2023 is the Best of Waco issue from June. Johnson said choosing the cover was the most difficult, and they finally decided on a unique design: a photo collage.  

“It was hard to choose because I wanted to feature so many of Waco’s events and hidden gems, and this is what we chose,” Johnson said. “If you picked up the magazine, you would get a feel for what Waco is.” 

There are 18,000 copies of the Wacoan printed each month. Once the June issue was printed, she said they could barely keep it on the shelves.  

Even as our world transitions to a digital age, Johnson said they plan on continuing their print editions alongside the online versions of the Wacoan. She said she finds that technology is actually more of a tool than a disadvantage because the stories are more accessible to everyone in the community.  

“People still pick it up, and I hope they always do,” she said.     

Hidden Gems: One of the Wacoan’s most popular issues. “Best of Waco,” was released in June 2023, and the issue can still be found on their website: wacoan.com.