Meet the Media – Matt Brown, Reporter at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Meet Matt Brown, Staff Writer at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat
26What’s your top story for today?
I cover transportation, and recently a state board decided to give up plans to build a freeway bypass through east Santa Rosa, a project that has been in the works since the 1950s. The decision frees up a strip of land that was going to carry the freeway. Residents would like to build a parkway and bike path system on the property.
Tell us about your dream assignment?
I got to live my dream assignment in 2008 when I became a foreign correspondent based in Africa. For three years, I lived in Nairobi, Kenya and covered an interesting region that included genocide in Congo, war in Sudan and piracy and terrorism in Somalia. It was a good mix of war reporting and covering human interest stories like the plight of refugees and other vulnerable populations. I worked for a startup newspaper called The National, an English-language paper based in Dubai that is backed by wealthy Middle East sheiks. It was great to work for an outlet that had money to invest in quality journalism at a time when most U.S.-based papers were slashing budgets.
Describe the wackiest story you have ever written.
While I was getting my master’s degree in journalism, I worked for various news outlets as a stringer, or freelancer. One of my assignments was to cover a speech by Janet Yellen, now the chair of the Federal Reserve, for the Wall Street Journal. Just before the speech, I learned that the beat reporter for the Wall Street Journal in New York would be writing the story, and all he needed me to do was hold my cellphone up so he could hear the speech (this was the days before webcasts). So I got a free breakfast and was paid $100 to hold up a cellphone.
What is your PR pet peeve?
Everyday my inbox is flooded with around 20 emails from organizations and companies all over the country pitching me stories that have nothing to do with my readers. I think people obtain huge lists of journalists’ contacts from databases like Vocus and send out wide pitches to everyone in the country. This should not be a substitute for a good targeted pitch. If anything, a good targeted pitch on something that I could cover might get buried among all the press releases and pitches I get every day.
Tell us about a top trend in the industry that you’re currently covering or are interested in.
As a transportation reporter, I closely cover the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit authority, which is building a commuter train between Sonoma and Marin counties. I am always interested in unusual transportation modes, or anything besides the usual roads and vehicles that move people around. This will be the first passenger rail system to serve the North Bay in decades. I’m also interested in California’s High Speed Rail project, though I don’t cover it.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a staff writer for the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa. I was a foreign correspondent covering Africa for The National newspaper, and I got my start as a reporter at the Lodi News-Sentinel. As a freelancer, I have written for Time magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press and Reuters among others. I received a master’s degree in journalism in 2006 from San Jose State University.
Questions or comments? Shout out in the comment section below or send an email to Matt at [email protected].

5 thoughts on “Meet the Media – Matt Brown, Reporter at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat

  1. Matt, love your dream assignment. Africa is a complicated and wonderful continent. I take it you’ve read Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible”? One of my absolute favorites. Thanks so much for contributing to LCI’s blog. Cheers, David

  2. Hi Matt,
    Thank you for contributing to our blog! You’ve had such an interesting and varied career so far; I enjoyed learning about your adventures. Can’t wait to read your next stories!
    Best,
    Elena

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