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After she had served her time, a fellow parolee who was working as a switchboard operator at The San Francisco Examiner gave her a tip that the newspaper was planning to hire two Black reporters to diversify its staff. Without any experience, Ms. Christian considered the opportunity a long shot, but she talked her way into an apprentice role by stretching the truth.

“I gave them this song and dance about having worked on this small Black paper that was burned out by the Klan,” she told The Tribune.

In 1970, she took part in an 11-week summer program for minority students in broadcast journalism at Columbia. (Geraldo Rivera was a classmate.) Two years later, she was hired by KNBC, the local NBC affiliate. She worked there for six years before being hired by NBC News.

Her tenure at PBS ended in 1989, shortly after the network found itself embroiled in controversy for airing a pro-Palestinian documentary called “Days of Rage,” which Ms. Christian had acquired and was responsible for vetting. A news report asserted that the film had been backed in part by undisclosed Arab funding, which its producer denied.

In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Christian said that she had resigned from PBS for other reasons. “You burn out because this is a no-win situation,” she said. “You get silence when things go well and outrage when there are questions.”

She eventually settled in Palm Springs, Calif., with Ms. DeBardelaben, whom she married in 2016. In 2003, the couple started the annual Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival.

In addition to Ms. DeBardelaben, Ms. Christian is survived by a grandson. Her daughter, Sunday Barrett, died in 2019.

While Ms. Christian kept quiet about her prison time early in her career, she finally decided to divulge it to a sympathetic executive at NBC. “The guy just looked at me,” she recalled. “He says, ‘I haven’t got enough problems. I have to listen to yours? Get outta here.’ Never heard another word.”


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