Career Profile: Matt T. Rosenberg

Matt T. Rosenberg is the geography guide for the award-winning website About.com (http://geography.about.com). He also serves as the local Director of Emergency Services for the American Red Cross in Ventura, California. An AAG member since 1997, Matt holds a bachelor's degree in geography from the University of California, Davis and is currently completing his master’s thesis at California State University at Northridge in Hazards Research. He is author of the Geography Bee Complete Preparation Handbook and The Handy Geography Answer Book.

This profile was published in 2003. Matt is currently still the Geography Guide for the website About.com.

AAG: What inspired you to create the geography site for About.com?

Matt: I was working on the university library’s website and heard about their company. They were looking for a guide, and I applied and am now an independent contractor hired to create their geography website. It’s been live since April 1997. The site has grown to more than 3,000 pages.

AAG: How many visitors come to your site?

Matt: On a given day I have few thousand to over 10,000 just coming to my home page. I’m fairly certain that it is the most popular site devoted directly to geography, with the most traffic other than National Geographic’s or the CIA factbook.

AAG: What is your favorite part of the site?

Matt: I have my regular articles about geographical topics on my site . . . I love bringing the concepts of academic geography to the general public, or armchair geographers, as I refer to them. I kind of see myself as a public geographer, bringing the discipline to everyone out there who is interested in geography but may have had a bad experience with it in school or who are in other fields and want to keep up with what’s going on.

AAG: Where do you get ideas for new content?

Matt: One of my favorite things was the episode of The West Wing when they talked about the Peters projection. That night after the show I spent several hours writing about Peters vs. Mercator and rectangular versus nonrectangular projections. I had something up about midnight that night. National Geographic was deluged with calls the next day and referred people to my site.

AAG: Where else do you get new ideas?

Matt: The AAG Newsletter has always been very helpful for me in my work and with the site, especially new book listings. The Professional Geographer also gives me ideas for articles and disseminating information about what’s new in the field to “translate” to the public.

AAG: What kind of feedback do you get from the public?

Matt: I love getting email from people with questions and suggestions. I get a lot of article ideas for that. It’s a lot of fun interacting with others about geography through the chats and forums on the site. I would encourage members to participate in the geography forum, it’s a post where people ask questions and have lots of great discussions.

AAG: Has this interaction changed the way you see geography?

Matt: As I’ve been doing it, I’m always reinforcing my opinion about how important geography is to everything we do and how vital it is as a discipline.

AAG: How do you use geography in your work with the Red Cross?

Matt: Going to college, my mind was made up that I was going to be a disaster kind of guy. I actually got started interested in hazards and discovered that geographic research was strong there. In the Red Cross we do a lot of planning and preparedness for hazards that involves geography.

AAG: How so?

Matt: For one, the Red Cross National Headquarters is developing a GIS program for use by all 1,000 or so chapters across the country that would be internetbased to quickly get demographic and hazards based information, including remote sensing. I’m part of their data testing team and I’m looking forward to seeing the new tools as they come out.

AAG: What disasters have you worked with?

Matt: I’ve been a part of several disaster operations, including the Midwest floods of 1993 and the Northridge earthquake. I was in New York right after September 11th and again in March [2002] helping victims’ families.

AAG: Any other plans for the future?

Matt: Finish my master’s.

AAG: You’re a busy guy.

Matt: Well, it’s been nice and slow here lately in Ventura, no disasters yet.

Dr. Patricia Solis, 2003