Power struggles in a small town community: the intersection of rural environmental protest, politics, and hyperlocal news media

Julie Freeman, Brett Hutchins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This article presents an in-depth case study of large-scale conflict in a small town, and reveals the complex ways that community groups and activism, hyperlocal news media, and political power intersect through rural environmental disputes. An important but under-recognized feature of such conflicts is the unique role performed by notions of rurality in the construction of environmental protests, discourses, and decisions; that is, the ways in which rural communities’ conservation efforts can be unfairly characterized as “backwards” and “anti-development”. Through a series of interviews and focus groups with protestors and residents, our case study examines a controversial boat ramp development that had a marked environmental impact on the isolated coastal town of Mallacoota (population 1,000) in the state of Victoria, Australia. We show that the environmental activism of protesters lifted the issue's visibility to the level of regional, state, and national news and politics. But the community consultation processes that occurred in response to protests raise significant concerns about government decision making that fails to acknowledge and negotiate the diverse understandings of place and rurality that exist within a community. The outcomes of struggles for power in this small town are lamentable and lasting, damaging the hyperlocal news environment and undermining the community newspaper's reputation among citizens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-454
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • activism
  • community
  • environmental conflict
  • hyperlocal news
  • local democracy
  • local government
  • place
  • protest
  • rurality

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