Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment, Media and Society; Director of The Norman Lear Center



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Mass Media
Media Effects
New Media
Political Journalism
Popular Culture
Social Media

Center Affiliation

The Norman Lear Center

Martin Kaplan is the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at USC Annenberg. 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 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 has been a blogger on the home page of The Huffington Post since its inception, and he is a columnist for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. 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. His Lear Center research includes the political coverage on U.S. local TV news broadcasts; the effects on audiences of public health messages in entertainment storylines; the impact of new technology and intellectual property law on the creative industries; best practices in and barriers to interdisciplinary collaboration; and the depiction of law and justice in popular culture.

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.