Department of History

Owen Johnson

  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of History
  • Associate Professor, School of Journalism


  • B.A. at Washington State University, 1968
  • Certificate at University of Michigan, 1978
  • Ph.D. at University of Michigan, 1978

Contact Information

Ernie Pyle Hall, Room 104
(812) 855-0506


Johnson has focused his attention on sociocultural and national development in East Central Europe, with a special focus on the mass media. That media focus is partly purposeful, partly accidental. In Johnson’s dissertation, which eventually appeared as a book, Slovakia 1918-1938: Education & the Making of a Nation he originally planned to include journalism, but decided to set it aside, given the richness of the material on education. Then, through the vagaries of the job market—there were no jobs in East European history in the late 1970s—he wound up teaching in a school of journalism, something of a logical fit since he had worked part-time as a journalist, and some of his journalistic work had been published in the Christian Science Monitor and broadcast on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” After a detour into the study of contemporary East European media during the days of glasnost’ and Gorbachev, he has now returned to a study of the interrelationship of media and national identity in 20th-century Slovakia. He teaches two graduate courses in the School of Journalism for which history graduate students may receive credit toward their history requirements: a colloquium on European journalism history generally and a seminar on Russian and East European media systems. Johnson is also finishing a book manuscript on the collected letters of American journalist and war correspondent Ernie Pyle.

Selected Awards

  • Have received numerous research awards from the ACLS, IREX, Fulbright and the National Council on Soviet and East European Studies

Research Interests

  • Eastern European/European/Russian journalism and mass media
  • Nineteenth- and twentieth-century east central Europe
  • Modern Czech and Slovak
  • Ernie Pyle

Courses Recently Taught

  • J624-Russian & East European Media Systems (seminar)
  • J660-European Journalism History (colloquium)
  • J414-International Newsgathering Systems

Publication Highlights


Slovakia 1918-1938: Education and the Making of a Nation. New York: Columbia University Press/East European Monographs, 1985.


Eastern European Journalism Before, During & After Communism (with JeromeAumente, Peter Gross, Ray Hiebert and R. Dean Mills), (Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, 1999). I was primary author on chapter 1 (pp. 5-40), “The Roots of Journalism in Central and Eastern Europe”

Owen V. Johnson, “Begetting & Remembering:  Creating a Slovak Collective Memory in the Post-Communist World,” in Michal Kopecek, ed., Past in the Making:  Historical Revisionism in Central Europe after 1989 (Budapest & New York:  Central European University Press, 2008), pp. 129-43

“Failing Democracy: Journalists, the Mass Media, and the Dissolution of Czechoslovakia,” in Michael Kraus and Allison K. Stanger, ed., Irreconcilable Differences?: Explaining Czechoslovakia’s Dissolution (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000), pp.163-82

“Mass Media and the Velvet Revolution,” in Jeremy Popkin, ed., Media and Revolution: Comparative Perspectives (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1995), pp. 220-31