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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

Brands Make Lousy Lovers

(0) Comments | Posted September 8, 2014 | 5:07 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 | 3:56 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 | 4:15 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 | 6:43 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 | 1:01 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 | 3:19 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 | 10:15 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 | 5:05 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 | 3:51 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 | 3:58 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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One God, One Vote

(0) Comments | Posted April 21, 2014 | 1:59 PM

I wonder if Tavis Smiley got the same Happy Passover mailer from Amy Howorth that I did.

Mr. Smiley and I are neighbors in California's 26th State Senate District, which includes coastal Los Angeles County, Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Amy Howorth, the mayor of Manhattan Beach, is running in an...

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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

(215) 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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