David Talbot: From Salon.com to public interest

David Talbot started his magazine career earlier than most.

“My father had beautiful leather-bound issues of Esquire and Life,” Talbot remembers. “I would make my own magazines as a kid. I’d write stories and then find photos from other magazines and cut and paste them together.”

It’s no surprise, then, that Talbot would eventually go on to found Salon.com in the mid-’90s, after a journalism career that began in the 1970s and included a stint as the Sunday magazine editor of The Examiner. These days, Talbot, also the best-selling author of this year’s “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years,” is joining the San Francisco office of Fenton Communications, theleading public advocacy firm in the country, as a senior vice president.

Talbot created Salon.com during the heyday of the Internet, as what he calls a “smart tabloid.”

“I’ve always enjoyed British newspapers, which have a mixture of sophisticated journalism and tawdry journalism,” he says. “I think people liked the mix of highbrow and lowbrow journalism on the site.”

Although he remains active as a Salon.com board member, Talbot left his role at the site after 10 years. “I felt I’d done it all, and I didn’t want the site to become stale,” he explains. “Plus, there were people who were ready to step up.”

As an author, Talbot recently celebrated a national best-seller with his book about brothers John and Bobby Kennedy. Talbot, who had worked as a volunteer for Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign while a teenager, can understand the country’s fascination with the Kennedy family.

“People want to be reminded of heroism and good leadership, not just in the fuzzy Camelot way,” he says. “The assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy traumatized and ruined the country in a profound way. We just kind of went off the rails afterwards.”

As for his transition from journalism to public-interest work, Talbot thinks it will be a smooth one, given his background.

The issues Talbot is most excited about working with include ending the war in Iraq, environmental causes, breast cancer awareness and working with urban youth.

“In my mind, Fenton is on the side of the angels,” Talbot said. “Every issue they work for really speaks to my heart.”

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