Stephen Talbot



  • Leftwing documentary film producer with close ties to the Public Broadcasting Service
  • Brother of Salon webzine founder and former Mother Jones editor David Talbot
  • Brother of former New Republic editor and New York Times Magazine writer Margaret Talbot
  • Son of eccentric labor union activist and co-founder of the Screen Actors Guild
  • As child actor he appeared in more than 50 episodes of Leave It to Beaver.

Stephen Talbot is a leftwing documentary film producer. He currently works as series editor of Frontline / World, a co-production of WGBH Boston and KQED San Francisco that airs on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

Born in 1949 in Los Angeles, Stephen Talbot is the son of movie and television actor Lyle Talbot (1902-1996), who is best remembered as the character “Joe Randolph,” neighbor of Ozzie and Harriet on that popular television series (1956-66). Stephen’s father was also a leftwing labor activist who co-founded the Screen Actors Guild and sat on its Board of Directors alongside Ronald Reagan. In later life, Lyle Talbot claimed that Hollywood studios had denied him good movie roles in retaliation for his labor organizing activities.

Stephen Talbot became a child television actor, appearing from 1958 until 1963 in more than 50 episodes of Leave It to Beaver as the character “Gilbert.” He also made guest appearances on episodes of The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, The Lucille Ball Show, Sugarfoot, Lawman, and Wanted: Dead or Alive.

In 1970 Talbot graduated from Wesleyan University. Referring to his “New Left self,” he recounts: “Like every other young radical on the East Coast, I had come [also in 1970] to New Haven to protest the arrest of Black Panther leader Bobby Seale.” (Seale was on trial for the torture-murder of Alex Rackley who the Panthers had accused of being a “police informer.”)

In 1980 Talbot produced his first major PBS documentary, Broken Arrow, about purported nuclear weapons accidents. He spent much of that decade as a reporter and producer at the PBS television station in San Francisco, KQED, and doing occasional reports on PBS’s national MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.

By the early 1990s Talbot was co-producing documentaries for the PBS series Frontline in conjunction with the Center for Investigative Reporting in San Francisco. Among these were Public Lands, Private Profits (1994); Rush Limbaugh’s America (1995); The Long March of Newt Gingrich (1996); and Why America Hates the Press (1996). He also produced the documentary Justice For Sale with Bill Moyers (1999). These presentations give a relentlessly leftwing view of the topics they discuss.

Talbot’s 1998 documentary, 1968: The Year That Shaped a Generation, lionizes radical figures of the 1960s including Students for a Democratic Society members Todd Gitlin and Tom Hayden. Talbot left no doubt as to whom he sided with during this era. “Alienation,” his documentary misquoted a Ramparts Magazine cover, “is when your country is at war and you hope the other side wins.” That cover, recalled Ramparts‘ former editor David Horowitz, featured a photograph of a young boy “holding the Vietcong flag — the flag of America’s enemy in Vietnam.” This is what, as Talbot’s personal narration told viewers of his documentary, “captured how I felt.”

During his media career, Talbot has won the duPont Award, two George Foster Peabody Awards, and a George Polk Award.

His brother David Talbot is a former Senior Editor at Mother Jones Magazine and founded the Internet webzine His sister Margaret Talbot is a feminist writer at The New York Times Magazine, a former editor at the New Republic, and a fellow at the New America Foundation.

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