|Occupation||School Board Member|
Escambia County District 1
|Children||Tori, Nicholas, Brandon|
Jeff Bergosh is the Escambia County School Board representative for District 1. He was elected in 2006, filling the seat vacated by his brother Gary Bergosh, who won a Circuit Court judgeship in the same election.
He came under fire in 2007 for posting controversial comments on the pnj.com message boards under the pseudonym Godzilla. His identity was revealed against his wishes in a News Journal story, which cited the website's registration database as proof, sparking discussions of both political and journalistic ethics.
Bergosh and his wife Sally have three children: Tori, Nicholas and Brandon.
Education & career
Bergosh is a 1986 graduate of Pensacola High School. After high school, he moved out west to attend college, earning an Associates of Arts degree from Grossmont College (El Cajon, California) in 1990 and a B.A. from San Diego State University in 1994. Before entering politics, Bergosh had a ten-year career as a retail business operator and facilities management specialist, including about 1 1/2 years working at Naval Air Station Pensacola. When his brother decided not to seek reelection, Bergosh said he was asked by Superintendent Jim Paul to seek the office. He was elected on September 5, 2006 with 5,110 votes — about twice as many as his closest rival, Todd Leonard.
On October 4, 2007, the Pensacola News Journal published an article by reporter Sara Rabb that revealed Bergosh had been posting comments on the pnj.com forums under the pseudonym "Godzilla." Rabb purportedly noticed that "Godzilla's" posts were similar to the views expressed by Bergosh at School Board meetings, and she was able to confirm with the website's administrator that Bergosh's personal email address had indeed been used to register the account. Rabb requested an interview with Bergosh on October 2, 2007, to discuss teacher salaries and merit pay. At the interview, Rabb confronted Bergosh with her findings and indicated that the News Journal wanted to run a story on the pseudonym. Bergosh admitted he was Godzilla during the interview, but then issued an official statement "unequivocally denying" the alter-ego. He has claimed this initial admission was made to Rabb "off the record." Bergosh officially confirmed the online identity during an October 8 "IN Your Head Radio" interview on AM 1620.
Bergosh was criticized in subsequent News Journal editorials for a number of the comments he made as Godzilla, which included:
- a claim that schools in the lower-income District 3 were a statistical "drag" on the district's performance.
- a suggestion that governments should "do away with compulsory education beyond grade 8. … Build more prisons and get ready for the influx, but let's keep school a positive environment for students who WANT to come to school!!"
- criticism of teachers' unions for "roadblocking districts every step of the way" in a debate over teacher merit pay. In the same debate, Bergosh (as Godzilla) complimented himself in the third person: "I know we can count on Board member Bergosh to be there and vote to keep the bonus money here in Pensacola. I know he is not going to genuflect, bow down and kiss the union ring, and give the union what they want." When the School Board voted 4-1 against the existing merit pay plan, Godzilla said he could hear their "spines breaking in unison."
Reaction & aftermath
The News Journal's decision to share details of their website registration database with the editorial staff was criticized by many members of the pnj.com forums and by other publications. According to the UWF Voyager, "A bias was inherent in that story — the bias to sell more newspapers." The online editor for the Northwest Florida Daily News decried the exposé as "bush league."
Hostilities continued when the News Journal held a contest asking readers to submit captions for a cartoon of Bergosh wearing a Godzilla costume. (The winning caption said, "All the School Board costumes were taken!") Bergosh countered by offering alternate captions critical of the newspaper's online policy (for example, "Deception is at the core of 'anonymous' blogs!!") and drawing a caricature of editor Dick Schneider:
These PNJ guys have had me on the front page twice, 4 editorials, and the “cartoon” has been up for 2 weeks!! These guys have given me more coverage this last month than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or their #1 hero, Al Gore, inventor of the internet and recent Nobel Peace Prize winner!! What a strange October this has been!! … So I put together my own little “cartoon contest”— knowing I have nowhere near the resources, time, nor the “need” to create news at the level of the PNJ. But, this is still rather humorous, in my opinion. I asked around town, at the Waterfront Rescue Mission, at UWF, At Happy Hour, and at my Mensa club meeting-- and came up with quite a few ideas for the caption, with the one in the final cartoon being deemed “the winner.”
His cartoon depicted Schneider outside a "House of Voodoo" sticking pins into a Godzilla doll and yelling, "MOMMY!! Your dumb idea is not WORKING!!"
- "District 1 candidates looking out for students." Pensacola News Journal, August 18, 2006.
- "Escambia County School Board." Pensacola News Journal, September 6, 2006.
- "Who is schools' 'Godzilla?'" Pensacola News Journal, October 4, 2007.
- Bergosh Is Godzilla, Independent News, October 11, 2007.
- Outing Godzilla: An Internet crack in the Chinese wall. Columbia Journalism Review, October 16, 2007.
- Statement by Bergosh regarding Godzilla
- "Newspapers should report, not exploit." The Voyager, October 11, 2007.
- Comments and Anonymity, October 9, 2007.
- Final cartoon
- Bergosh's parody cartoons