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After graduating from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York in 1971, he became a reporter for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in February 1972, where he shared the New York State Publishers Association first prize for reporting with two colleagues for a series of articles about heroin in Rochester. In May, 1973, at the age of 23, he became the paper's classical music critic.
Walsh was named chief classical music critic of the San Francisco Examiner in November 1977, where in 1980 he won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for music criticism. He became music critic of Time magazine in the spring of 1981, where his cover story subjects included James Levine, Vladimir Horowitz and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
From 1997-2002 he was a visiting fellow of the University Professors, Professor of Journalism and Professor of Film & Television at Boston University. He is currently Vice President of the board of the Wende Museum, devoted to East German and Soviet art, artefacts and scholarship, in Culver City, California.
Since February, 2007, Walsh has written for National Review both under his own name and using a fictional persona named David Kahane, the name of which "...is borrowed from a screenwriter character in (the movie) The Player."  This persona has evolved into one of "...a Hollywood liberal who has a habit of sharing way too much about the rules by which they live to a conservative audience." 
In January, 2010, in collaboration with Andrew Breitbart, he launched BigJournalism.com, devoted to media commentary and criticism. Since December 3, 2010, he has written a weekly opinion column for the New York Post, and in late June 2012 became a featured columnist at PJ Media.
Cadet Kelly, a 2002 Disney Channel Original Movie (co-written with Gail Parent) starring Hilary Duff was, until High School Musical, the highest-rated Disney Channel movie in history.
Walsh recently completed HARD HEADED WOMAN, a biopic of the rockabilly singer, Wanda Jackson, for LD Entertainment. Other scripts in development include How High the Moon, about the lives of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday (Mike Medavoy and Debra Martin Chase, producers); Hound and Horn, set in 1940s Marseilles; the Cold War film, Charlie; and Maamtrasna, set in rural 19th-century Ireland.
His principal residence is in Lakeville, Connecticut.