A rich multiformat package kicks off AP’s series on small businesses trying to navigate the pandemic economy worldwide.

Small businesses – critical to the health of the global economy – are clearly being hit hard by the pandemic. Over the next six months to a year, Associated Press journalists in a dozen locations around the world will chronicle their fight for survival, in an ambitious series called “Small Business Struggles.”

The first piece, anchored by New York-based national writer Adam Geller with a rich digital presentation by Phoenix-based top stories video editor Samantha Shotzbarger, got the project off to an incredible start. 

The story brought readers into the agonizing decisions business owners face as they try to stay afloat: The owner of a second-floor sari shop in New York City’s Jackson Heights trying to find a way to make his $6,000 monthly rent. A New Orleans art gallery that reopened as a takeout eatery. A pizzeria owner in Lebanon grappling not only with the devastation of the pandemic but crime and the country’s economic collapse as well.

Editors rarely share in Best of the Week honors, but a large part of what made the story so compelling was the creative digital presentation by Shotzbarger. Her aim was to give readers a sense of what these small businesses looked like as they reopened their doors. She found interesting but simple moments in the video collected by the team and turned them into loops. One, showing a bouncer awaiting patrons outside of a bar with a "Now Open" sign, led the piece and immediately set the tone for viewers. Shotzbarger used the strong photos as "chapter heads" to help readers immediately recognize points of transition.

A little bit more about the project: AP journalists around the world have identified streets where they will focus their reporting efforts and three or four businesses they will follow. The stakes are high: The U.N. estimates that businesses with fewer than 250 workers account for two-thirds of employment globally. Whether small businesses survive will help determine not only how quickly economies recover but also how the fabric of communities changes.

AP journalists around the world will each report on the fortunes of three or four businesses during the series.

Many AP reporters, photographers and video journalists contributed, starting with corrrespondent Lori Hinnant in Paris who came up with the idea for the initial story. Other contributors were: 
— Video journalist Marshall Ritzel and photo editor Mark Lennihan in New York
— Reporter Gene Johnson and photographer Ted S. Warren in Tenino, Washington
— Reporter Sarah El Deeb, senior producer Bassam Hatoum and photo editor Hussein Malla in Beirut
— Business writer Yuri Kageyama, chief photographer Eugene Hoshiko and video journalist Emily Wang in Tokyo
— Administrative corrrespondent Rebecca Santana and photographer Gerald Herbert in New Orleans
— Photographer Francois Mori in Paris
— Reporter Mohamed Ibrahim and photographer Jim Mone in Minneapolis
— News editor Sylvia Hui, and photographers Matt Dunham and Alberto Pezzali in London
— Video journalist Srdjan Nedeljkovic, senior producer Theodora Tongas, Southeast Europe Bureau Chief Elena Becatoros and chief photographer Thanassis Stavrakis in Athens 

Chris Hulme in New York and Samira Becirovic in London steered the video, while New York’s Aaron Jackson coordinated the photos and Jerry Schwartz edited the text piece.

In addition to the digital presentation, the initial package included four customer video edits, a public-facing video and a strong package of photos. The package led the AP News site with more than 55,000 page views and was used by digital, print and video customers around the world. 

For pulling together the opening salvo in this immersive and significant global project, Geller and Shotzbarger share the AP’s Best of the Week.

For AP’s complete coverage of the coronavirus: 

– AP’s hub for comprehensive all-formats coverage of the virus outbreak.

– Understanding the Outbreak: stories explaining the new coronavirus.

– One Good Thing: stories of hope and humanity amid the crisis.

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