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. 

In Jimmy Carter’s administration, Kaplan 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 Dr. Boyer on education policy while he was 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 screenwriter and producer. He has credits on The Distinguished Gentleman, starring Eddie Murphy, a political comedy which he wrote and executive produced; Noises Off, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, which he adapted for the screen from Michael Frayn’s farce; and the action-adventure MAX Q, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

He created and hosted So What Else Is News?, a 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. His print and online columns have won six first-place prizes from the Los Angeles Press Club.

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 best practices in TV news coverage of politics, campaigns and public affairs;  the public interest obligations of broadcasters; the effects on audiences of public health and other pro-social messages in entertainment storylines; and the uses of narrative in science communication.

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.