David Talbot (born September 22, 1951) is an American progressive journalist, author and media executive. He is the founder, former CEO and editor-in-chief an early web magazine, Salon. Talbot founded Salon in 1995. The magazine gained a large following and broke several major national stories. It was described by Entertainment Weekly as one of the Net's "few genuine must-reads".
Since leaving Salon, Talbot has researched and written on the Kennedy assassination and other areas of what he calls "hidden history." Talbot has worked as a senior editor for Mother Jones magazine and a features editor for The San Francisco Examiner, and has written for Time magazine, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and other publications.
Talbot was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He attended Harvard Boys School, but did not graduate after falling afoul of the school's headmaster and ROTC program during the Vietnam War. After graduating from the University of California at Santa Cruz, he returned to Los Angeles, where he wrote a history of the Hollywood Left, "Creative Differences", and freelanced for Crawdaddy, Rolling Stone, and other magazines. He later was hired by Environmental Action Foundation in Washington, D.C. to write "Power and Light," a book about the politics of energy. After he returned to California, he was hired as an editor at Mother Jones magazine, and later, by San Francisco Examiner publisher Will Hearst to edit the newspaper's Sunday magazine, Image. It was at the Examiner where Talbot developed the idea for Salon, convincing several of his newspaper colleagues to join him and jump ship into the brave new world of web publishing.
Salon is a web magazine based in San Francisco. Talbot has characterized Salon as aiming to be a "smart tabloid". In 1996, Time magazine picked Salon as the web site of the year. Originally created to cover books and popular culture, the web site became increasingly politicized during the Clinton impeachment drama in the late 1990s. Salon broke from the mainstream press by defending the Clinton presidency and investigating the right-wing prosecutorial apparatus headed by Kenneth Starr and Rep. Henry Hyde, whose own infidelity Salon exposed.
Before stepping down as Salon's CEO and editor-in-chief in 2005, Talbot stabilized the financially rocky web enterprise. Talbot returned briefly as Salon CEO in 2011 but has since left the company.
In 2008, Talbot launched a media production company with his siblings called The Talbot Players, named after their late father's theater troupe. The company is producing books, films and documentaries. In addition to the Pulp History series for Simon & Schuster, the company is developing a documentary TV series about global music for PBS called "Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders".
After leaving Salon, Talbot resumed his career as an author of popular history books. Talbot's book, The New York Times bestseller, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, offers a potentially controversial view of the Kennedy presidency and assassination, and explores Bobby Kennedy's search for the truth about his brother's murder. Talbot is now working on a feature documentary based on Brothers.
Talbot's book Devil Dog: The Amazing True Story of the Man Who Saved America chronicles the life and exploits of antiwar U.S. Marine general Smedley Darlington Butler. The book, which was part of an illustrated history series called Pulp History, is a collaboration with Zap Comix artist Spain Rodriguez. Devil Dog, which was published by Simon & Schuster in fall 2010, won praise from The New York Times, which called the Pulp History series "rip-roaring nonfiction tales with enough purple prose, gory illustrations and va-va-va-voom women to lure in even reluctant teenage male readers".
Talbot's book Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love, about the wild and bloody birth of "San Francisco values", was published in spring 2012. Season of the Witch received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and was described as "enthralling, news-driven history" (San Francisco Chronicle), "energetic, highly entertaining storytelling" (Boston Globe), and "an enthralling – and harrowing – account of how the 1967 Summer of Love gave way to 20 or so winters of discontent" (Washington Post).
Talbot's book The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government is a biography examining the career of Allen Dulles. According to Talbot, Dulles orchestrated the assassination of Kennedy at the behest of corporate leaders who perceived the President to be threat to national security, lobbied Lyndon B. Johnson to have himself appointed to the Warren Commission, then arranged to have Lee Harvey Oswald take sole responsibility for the act. The book charges that the conspirators in JFK's death also murdered Bobby Kennedy as they perceived him to be "a wild card, an uncontrollable threat" that would reveal the plot.
The book has stirred debate about the history of the CIA. In a review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Glenn C. Altschuler stated, "Talbot’s indictment is long, varied and sensational." Altschuler wrote: "Animated by conspiracy theories, the speculations and accusations in his book often run far ahead of the evidence, even for those of us inclined to believe the worst about Allen Dulles."
But the book was praised elsewhere, including Kirkus Reviews, whose starred review, called it "a frightening biography of power, manipulation and outright treason. [...] all engaged American citizens should read this book and have their eyes opened."
Talbot is from a media and entertainment family. He is the son of longtime character actor and founding member of the Screen Actors Guild, Lyle Talbot, and brother of documentary producer and former child actor Stephen Talbot, of physician Cynthia Talbot of Portland, Oregon, and of journalist Margaret Talbot, a staff writer at The New Yorker. Talbot is married to writer Camille Peri, co-editor of the national bestseller Mothers Who Think, with whom he has two children.
David Talbot's sister, Margaret, has written a biography of their father Lyle Talbot and a memoir of their family life, The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century (Riverhead Books, 2012).