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Marty Kaplan
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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

Why Is This Blog Different From All Other Blogs?

(1) Comments | Posted April 7, 2014 | 2:12 PM

There are two ma nishtanas -- one adorable, and one ironic.

They both mean the same thing in Hebrew: "What is different?" "What has changed?"

The adorable one gets its charm from being sung by the youngest child at the Passover seder. Ma nishtana starts the sentence setting up the...

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This Is How You'll Feel When the GOP Wins the Senate

(220) Comments | Posted March 24, 2014 | 1:32 PM

It's the morning after.

You stayed up late watching election results on TV. By the time you went to bed, the Republicans had won five of the six Senate seats they needed to take control of both houses of Congress. As the networks called each state for...

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Which Algorithm Are You?

(2) Comments | Posted March 10, 2014 | 1:45 PM

I love online quizzes.

The one I currently love most is "How Millennial Are You?," which the Pew Research Center put out on Friday. You answer 14 questions, ranging from whether living a very religious life is very important to you to whether you have a piercing in...

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Once Upon a Climate Change

(24) Comments | Posted February 24, 2014 | 4:30 PM

Those who tell the stories rule the world, it's said, but it's hard to tell a story unless you know the ending.

We don't yet know the ending of the climate change story. The beginning of the ending, though, happened in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, where delegates from 37 industrialized...

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The Flappy Bird of Paradise

(0) Comments | Posted February 10, 2014 | 12:45 PM

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but Flappy Bird is definitely not just a game.

If you've been on an aboriginal walkabout, you may not know that, until yesterday, Flappy Bird was the most popular iPhone and Android app on the planet. Its appeal lies neither in its...

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The Curious Case of Criticism

(0) Comments | Posted January 23, 2014 | 5:28 PM

What do you say to a friend whose work has been panned by a critic?

Until I actually read it, I was thrilled to see a review of the new book by an author I've known since college on the front page of the Arts section of the New York...

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Christie's Weiner

(6) Comments | Posted January 13, 2014 | 3:03 PM

I did not have sex with that bridge.

That was Chris Christie's Hail Mary play at his press conference last week. He looked us in the eye, he told us he'd done nothing wrong and he prayed it would turn out better for him with George Washington than it did...

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Confessions of an Ex-Hoarder

(6) Comments | Posted December 30, 2013 | 2:44 PM

This is a cross-post of my column in The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.


I've run out of excuses for hanging on to stuff.

No, I haven't achieved Zen non-attachment to material things, but I'm no longer on the road to Hoarding: Buried...

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Mary Poppins Does Not Come Back

(3) Comments | Posted December 4, 2013 | 3:23 PM

This is a cross-post of my column in The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.

I knew better than to expect P.L. Travers to write something sweet in my copy of Mary Poppins, but I didn't think it would be quite so medicinal.

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Iran No-Spoiler Alert

(101) Comments | Posted November 25, 2013 | 2:43 PM

So where are we in the Iran narrative?

I mean no disrespect to the victims of Iran's terrorist clients, or the existential fears of Israelis and world Jewry, or U.S. security interests in the Middle East by calling it a narrative. Real events do happen in the real world, but...

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The Obamacare Apocalypse, And the Real One

(115) Comments | Posted November 12, 2013 | 12:04 PM

Last week a professor of physics and astronomy told the New York Times that the probability of an asteroid hitting the earth -- it happened over Chelyabinsk, Russia in February, with the energy of 30 Hiroshimas -- isn't once in a century or two, it's once in a...

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No News Is Bad News

(31) Comments | Posted October 30, 2013 | 2:18 PM

If you think the widening chasm between the rich and the rest spells trouble for American democracy, have a look at the growing gulf between the information-rich and -poor.

Earlier this year, a Harvard economist's jaw-dropping study of American's beliefs about the distribution of American wealth became a

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Textism: Is Spelling Over?

(81) Comments | Posted October 10, 2013 | 10:46 AM

f u cn rd ths, u cn bcm a sec & gt a gd jb w hi pa.

You can tell that's not a text message. When secretaries were getting good jobs for high pay, no one was texting.

Those School of Speedwriting ads were...

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This Creepy Ad Can Kill You

(110) Comments | Posted September 30, 2013 | 2:14 PM

"You're not going to let Uncle Sam put his finger up your butt, are you, dude?"

We're at a bustling town fair, a few weeks from now. Kids climb on the fire truck. Community groups sell cupcakes and give out flyers. At the "Enroll America" booth, people are on healthcare.gov...

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Most Depressing Brain Finding Ever

(676) Comments | Posted September 16, 2013 | 3:51 PM

Yale law school professor Dan Kahan's new research paper is called "Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government," but for me a better title is the headline on science writer Chris Mooney's piece about it in Grist: "Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math."

Kahan...

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The Put-Up-or-Shut-Up Congress

(89) Comments | Posted September 1, 2013 | 12:32 AM

Minutes after President Obama's hot-potato toss from the Rose Garden to Capitol Hill, "put up or shut up" soared on social media.

As with the sequester, Congress may devise a vote that takes no responsibility and leaves no fingerprints. Most Republicans think that giving Obama a flat yes on anything...

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Hillary, Helmets, Crossfire and Cash

(61) Comments | Posted August 26, 2013 | 3:03 PM

Money, they say, is the mother's milk of politics. Also of news, sports and the rest of the entertainment industry. Three recent stories drive that home.

When Reince Priebus pressured Comcast's NBC to drop a miniseries starring Diane Lane as Hillary Clinton, the hostage that the RNC chairman threatened...

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Reaganism, Capitalism and Sheilaism

(1208) Comments | Posted August 5, 2013 | 2:57 PM

If mice can have false memories planted in their brains by scientists, as the journal Science reported recently, then I guess it shouldn't be surprising that cultures can have false memories planted in their brains by politicians and their media enablers.

What brings this to...

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CBS vs. Time Warner Cable vs. You

(71) Comments | Posted July 22, 2013 | 1:05 PM

Here's progress: Big media companies now think Americans are as gullible as politicians do. It's not just candidates who assume we're nincompoops. The cable operators and networks take us for pigeons, too.

Exhibit A is the current battle between behemoths Time Warner Cable and CBS. If you've...

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David Brooks' Own Private Egypt

(203) Comments | Posted July 5, 2013 | 1:34 PM

If only David Brooks' eligibility rules for Egyptian political candidates applied to Republicans as well.

The problem with Egypt's brief democracy, the New York Times columnist writes, was the wrong people were elected by the wrong people:

"Members of the Muslim Brotherhood are defined by certain beliefs....

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