In a spontaneous act, celebrity auctioneer Jim Bohannon sold his tie for $25 during the Society of Professional Journalist’s Legal Defense Fund Live and Silent Auction on Oct. 4. It may have been because Item 123, “Dinner With Jim Bohannon,” came in several thousand dollars short of the amount paid for an item sold minutes before: four VIP tickets to “The Daily Show.”
Terry Harper, SPJ’s executive director, bought the tickets for $5,000 on behalf of longtime SPJ supporter Ruth Ann Harnisch. She also had the top bid in the silent auction with $2,500 for the “Nixon resigns package,” which featured various newspaper accounts of his resignation following the Watergate scandal.
“I think it’s very nice, even though I should have brought a worse tie,” Bohannon said. “I would have been happy pulling a Tom Jones and bidding for room keys and underwear.”
The auction, which took place in The National Music Center, helped kick off the 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Washington, D.C. Bohannon and Bob Schieffer, a well-known journalist and anchor of “CBS Evening News,” hosted the event.
The $23,123 raised during the auctions will benefit the SPJ Legal Defense Fund, which provides grants to journalists working to defend the First Amendment. Last year, more than $18,000 was used to free reporters from jail and help college newspapers fight censorship, said Dave Aeikens, former LDF chairman.
But perhaps the highlight of the event came at the expense of longtime SPJ volunteer and past national president Mac McKerral, who agreed to have his head shaved by the highest bidder.
As bids continued to increase, McKerral exchanged glances with Terry Harper, the man McKerral was auctioning his hair for. Harper, executive director of SPJ, was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and lost some of his hair while undergoing treatment.
McKerral, an associate professor at Western Kentucky University, decided to auction what was left of his own hair after he received an e-mail about Harper’s condition.
“Several people joked that after he lost his hair, he would look like Clint (Brewer, SPJ president),” McKerral said. “That’s why I did it. I thought it would be fun.”
Shaving rights were sold to Christine Tatum, immediate past president, for $700.
“I thought it was very nice of him,” said Harper, who has known McKerral for over five years.