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Marty Kaplan
Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. His uncommonly broad career has also spanned government and politics, the entertainment industry and journalism.

He served as chief speechwriter to Vice President Walter F. Mondale, and also as executive assistant to the U.S. Commissioner of Education, Ernest L. Boyer. As deputy campaign manager of Mondale’s presidential race, he directed the campaign’s speechwriting, issues, and research operations. He also worked with Boyer on education policy while a program officer at the Aspen Institute, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, and a senior advisor at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

He worked at Walt Disney Studios for 12 years, both as vice president of production for live-action feature films, and as a writer-producer under exclusive contract. He has credits on The Distinguished Gentleman, starring Eddie Murphy, a political comedy which he wrote and executive produced; Noises Off, a farce directed by Peter Bogdanovich, which he adapted for the screen from Michael Frayn’s play; and the action-adventure MAX Q, produced for TV by Jerry Bruckheimer.

He has been a blogger for The Huffington Post since its inception, and he is a columnist for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. In 2013 his columns won First Place for print columnist at the LA Press Club's 55th annual Southern California Journalism Awards, and his entertainment columns won First Place at their National Entertainment Journalism Awards.

He created and hosted So What Else Is News?, the nationally-syndicated Air America Radio program examining media politics and pop culture. On public radio, he was a featured commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered (for which he also was the first guest co-host), and on Marketplace, where his beat was the business of entertainment. He was also deputy op-ed editor and a columnist for the Washington Star and a commentator on the CBS Morning News.

He was associate dean of the USC Annenberg School for 10 years and is the founding director of the School’s Norman Lear Center, whose mission is to study and shape the impact of media and entertainment on society.

He graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude in molecular biology, where he was president of the Harvard Lampoon and of the Signet Society. The recipient of a Marshall Scholarship from the British government, he received a Master’s degree in English with First Class Honours from Cambridge University in England. As a Danforth Foundation Fellow, he received a Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University.

Entries by Marty Kaplan

Before Your Favorite Teacher Dies

(0) Comments | Posted January 20, 2015 | 5:11 PM

On City Cisco Island, Aunt Suzy saw funny men.

That sentence is a mnemonic that Mr. Jaeger taught us. The first letter of each word stands for a molecule in the Krebs citric acid cycle, the pathway that converts food to energy. The O in "On" stands for Oxaloacetate; the...

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How Satire Happens

(7) Comments | Posted January 13, 2015 | 9:44 AM

On May 4, 1970, when 29 Ohio National Guardsmen shot 67 rounds of ammunition at a group of unarmed Kent State University students protesting Richard Nixon's expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia, killing four students and wounding nine others, I was the president of the Harvard Lampoon, the nation's...

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My New Favorite News Network Is Not Liberal (and Not Fox)

(3) Comments | Posted January 5, 2015 | 4:43 PM

This may be the kiss of death, but One America News is my new favorite TV news network.

"If you take the channel lineup, the sources of national news tend to lean to the left... and all we have is Fox." That's what OAN Network president Charles...

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Sony 'R' Us

(2) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 2:46 PM

The most shocking thing about the digital disemboweling of Sony Pictures' computer data is that anyone would actually find it shocking.

That goes for everything from the vulnerability of everyone's personal and proprietary data, not just Sony's, to the revelation that a sausage-making industry like the movie and...

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'God Gave This Land to Them'

(26) Comments | Posted December 1, 2014 | 8:35 PM

Pat Boone wrote the words to Exodus.

If you're below a certain age, Pat Boone is some random dude you need Google to ID, and Exodus is the new Ridley Scott 3D film with Christian Bale as Moses and a wicked cool CGI Red Sea.

To Boomers, Pat Boone was...

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The I-Word Isn't Impeachment -- It's Idiocracy

(11) Comments | Posted November 17, 2014 | 2:42 PM

Is he -- finally -- the one we've been waiting for?

Just days after the midterm election, President Barack Obama made a big climate change deal with China, asked the F.C.C. to regulate Internet service providers as if they were public utilities and pledged to address the immigration mess on...

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Nightcrawler Nation

(2) Comments | Posted November 3, 2014 | 3:26 PM

When I heard my research into the amount of time local TV news spends on crime (plenty) and government (nearly nada) coming out of Jake Gyllenhaal's mouth, I could have kissed him. If he'd added that those same civically negligent, inflammatory stations also make billions of dollars off...

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The Facts of Fearbola

(3) Comments | Posted October 20, 2014 | 7:15 PM

When the young woman in the seat next to me asked the flight attendant for a glass of cabernet, I took it as a sign that projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea would not be part of my trip from PHL to LAX. I also took it as a reminder that...

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(1) Comments | Posted October 6, 2014 | 1:23 PM

I wonder how Jiminy Cricket would have handled the æ.

Half of the articles in the Encylopædia Britannica are now available on its website for free. They used to be behind a $70-a-year pay wall, but, as the Chicago Tribune recently reported, the "246-year-old privately held company is...

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Climate Change Will Be the Number One Issue in the 2034 Midterm Elections

(7) Comments | Posted September 22, 2014 | 9:29 PM

On the day after the Sept. 23 UN Climate Change Summit in New York, sunset will bring the High Holidays to Jews around the world.

On that night, I wonder whether the words of the Unetanneh Tokef, the troubling prayer at the heart of the...

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Brands Make Lousy Lovers

(0) Comments | Posted September 8, 2014 | 6:07 PM

What brand doesn't belong on this list? Amazon, Uber, Yelp, Hillary.

It's a trick question. They all belong. In recent days, they've all been making it harder for their fans to love them.

I loved Amazon at first sight. Later, when it killed Borders, I forgave it, and called it...

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The News Summer From Hell and the End of Optimism

(3) Comments | Posted August 25, 2014 | 4:56 PM

By this point in the summer, a sane person could reasonably conclude that the world is going nuts. Spiraling out of control, descending into darkness, making optimism a delusional last recourse -- that kind of feeling.

"What fresh hell is this?" -- the question Dorothy Parker asked when her...

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The Secret of Warren Bennis's Success

(0) Comments | Posted August 6, 2014 | 5:15 PM


Though the size of Warren Bennis's obituary in the New York Times was epic -- all six columns across, filling most of the space above the fold on the back page of the A section -- its text made no mention...

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If Norman Lear at 92 Is What 92 Is, I'll Have What He's Having

(1) Comments | Posted July 23, 2014 | 7:43 PM

It is not widely known that Norman Lear and I have the same mother.


Norman once called his mother in Bridgeport, Conn., and said, "Mother, I just got this call. The Television Academy is forming...

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Elaine Stritch Tells Me a Very Funny Judy Garland Story

(6) Comments | Posted July 18, 2014 | 2:01 PM

When my interview with Elaine Stritch aired on "So What Else Is News?" -- my Air America Radio show back in the day -- someone wrote me saying I laughed way too hard in it.

I wrote back that it was because I was terrified of her.

Here's an...

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Please Manipulate Me

(1) Comments | Posted July 14, 2014 | 4:19 PM

What do you call it when media try to manipulate your feelings without first asking for informed consent?


Example: The average Facebook user sees only 20 percent of the 1,500 stories per day that could have shown up in their news feed. The posts you receive are determined...

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How to Organize Your Books

(2) Comments | Posted July 1, 2014 | 11:15 AM

It's a sin to throw away a book.

I don't mean e-books. If they're cluttering your e-reader, all you have to do is delete them, and you don't even have to do that, since you can pretty much fit the Library of Congress on a thumb drive.

But physical books...

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Five Doubting Dudes and the Holy Relics of Mount Mortality

(0) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 6:05 PM

"Protestant," I lied, not for the first time, when the Holy Mount Athos Pilgrims Bureau officer asked me my religion.

In January, when my friend Sandy, who was born Greek Orthodox, applied to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to allow five of us to set foot on the...

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Rice Determined Not to Strike in NJ

(2) Comments | Posted May 19, 2014 | 4:51 PM

Forget whether former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was paid more or less than her predecessor, Bill Keller. I want to know why Condoleezza Rice was paid more than Condoleezza Rice.

Rutgers University offered $35,000 to George W. Bush's national security advisor and secretary of state to...

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What If We Really Knew What Media Does to Us

(2) Comments | Posted May 5, 2014 | 4:58 PM

What if we knew that the fictional rapes in HBO's mega-hit Game of Thrones caused real rapes in the real world? What if we knew that the portrayals of gay characters in Modern Family caused actual states to legalize same-sex marriage?

The catch, of course, is causation. Medical...

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