Publisher Jon Clarke on the massive range of stories the Olive Press has tackled as it grew from a tiny office in Ronda to covering the length and breadth of Spain
FROM aiding a pensioner to unblock his favourite footpath to warning of the dangers of global warming, and from investigating dangerous fraudsters to exposing cheating on TripAdvisor in Spain.
These are just some of the wide-ranging and varied issues we have tackled, since I launched the Olive Press some 300 issues ago in 2006.
Campaigns? We have had many, including one to probe bent lawyers, another to expose the dangers of lethal drug Nolotil and another to encourage plastic recycling.
Conmen, fraudsters and sex offenders? We have published literally hundreds of exclusive stories probing the way they cheapen and demeanour the country we now call home.
Features, food and travel articles? We have covered just about every region of Spain, including its islands, not to mention pieces on neighbouring Morocco and Portugal.
And let’s not forget how we represented most of you when we had our only front page in Spanish – to support the Remain campaign in the Brexit referendum two years ago.
This is, of course, the job of a good local newspaper. To represents its community and, above all, its readers, who in our case are mostly expats, be they British, Dutch, Swedish, Russian or Moroccan. We have stepped in to help them all.
When I first set up the Olive Press in a bedroom of my house in Ronda 12 years ago, I did it out of desperation for a genuine newspaper to support the huge and growing expat population in Andalucia.
The largest diaspora in the world and the millions of British, Dutch, Scandinavian and Irish expats here were being insulted with nothing more than cheap magazines and papers which (badly) translated local articles. And still do.
There were no decent local English journalists investigating and reporting on the issues that mattered to foreigners … and no newspapers giving them a voice.
Whether to help local people fight injustice against their town halls, a warning against fraudsters, or a call to arms against barbaric projects ruining the region’s last green spaces, there was nothing.
I wanted to change that… and offer some proper community service in the form of good, old-fashioned, grass-roots, gumshoe local campaigning.
After more than a decade working in national newspapers in England, travelling the world reporting on injustices, scandals and corruption, I couldn’t believe what I found on my very own doorstep in the mid 2000s.
Andalucia was being run by the local mafia and corruption was rife, with money having bought practically every authority and town hall.
When I started to investigate the shocking web of illegality surrounding the enormous Los Merinos golf development near Ronda, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
The double golf course, 1000 home, three-hotel project would have seen a Unesco-protected hillside turned into a version of Brookside.
More crucially, I discovered, it was being protected from high up in the Junta. Perhaps even by its then leader Manuel Chavez.
Along with green groups and university professors we followed the money and licences trail, and reported how the developers cut down hundreds of ancient oak trees despite not having permission.
First the status quo tried to discredit the paper and told us to shut up.
We were threatened with legal action and I became shunned by various members of Ronda ‘society’, people my wife and I had initially called friends.
But, as any good journalist knows, you are not in this job to make friends… and you can’t make a good omelette without first breaking eggs, as a famous Fleet Street adage goes.
So we did the opposite. We didn’t shut up and our stories began to appear not just in the UK national newspapers, but then in the Spanish nationals.
Our small environmental story had suddenly become a national hot potato.
While often feeling like a lone voice in the wilderness back then, as we reported on scandal after scandal, how things changed as we entered the recession.
Finally the country got wise to the sheer audacity of its politicians and the billions that had been stolen and syphoned away by their friends.
The media changed its tack and started to probe corruption, while new political parties, such as Podemos and Ciudadanos, emerged to take on the big two.
The tide has finally turned and today our reports on political scandals and the environment go alongside a huge melting pot of other subjects, popular with our readers.
Today, the Olive Press goes from strength to strength with impressive growth figures both in print and online.
We have three issues in Andalucia, Mallorca and Gibraltar and plan to open more soon.
As well as printing around 100,000 papers a month, we are getting around 10,000 unique visitors to our sites nearly every day.
Our profit and turnover has grown for the last three years.
All of this, of course, would not have been possible without you, the readers, our excellent writers and journalists and, in particular, our growing number of quality local clients.
Thanks for your support. It means the world to us. We couldn’t have done it without you.
As one, Ian Radford, the owner of the La Sala Group in Marbella, wrote this week: “The years between 2007 and 2015 have been anything but the easiest, so it makes your growth even more impressive.”
All in all, we look forward to growing in strength and popularity over the next 300 issues, with you alongside us.
And that, after all, is the point.