Scott Downman

When a community rises up against fake news: The Change Makers' Project

Fake news may have only recently become the subject of news headlines but it has long been a problem in local news coverage. This study examines the impact of fake news on a low socio-economic, multicultural, hyperlocal community in Logan City, south of Brisbane, Australia. It examines the blurriness between fake news and poor journalism. However, more importantly it presents a case study of how community-engaged journalism can be used to counter stigmatising and fake narratives produced by mainstream media. The Change Makers' Project was launched in 2014 by fed-up school students as a response to false news reports about Logan City. Based in a high school, the reports produced in the project aim to tell the authentic stories of a community with one of Australia's most ethnically-diverse populations. Produced by university journalism students, the project has now won multiple awards for journalism excellence. It demonstrates that when journalism harnesses community sentiment in an empowering way, it can be a part of a community-building initiative that restores a sense of pride.

Keywords: Change Makers, hyperlocal, fake news, journalism, stereotyping, storytelling


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Note on the contributor

Scott Downman is a journalist and lecturer at the University of Queensland. For the past 15 years he has been involved in community development projects in Southeast Asia and Australia that use media and journalism to address complex social issues and that experiment with alternative forms of storytelling.