Russian And American Military Journalism Headlines


The article is devoted to the strategy of headlines in their interaction with the text itself in the military journalism context. The study of different headline strategies has shown that the headlines continue two rhetorical traditions. The ancient Greek tradition presupposed that the first sign of the text was perceived most likely as an announcement to attract the attention of the audience. The ancient Roman tradition presupposed the first phrases of the text like a condensed content of it, the content in a few words. Thus, in the Greek tradition, the initial phrase was a metasign, and in the Roman tradition, it was something like a first sign in the chain of signs. The military journalism headlines study shows that the Russian papers take the Greek tradition and use headlines as metasigns, while the American headline strategy presupposes the Roman variant. The analysis of different headlines proved this idea: the American texts about different aspects of military journalism showed almost 100% of the headlines as a condensed content of the texts. The Russian tradition unlikely presupposes the vast quantity of the headlines which are enigmatic and not so transparent: the reader could not become familiar with the text by reading them, but he has a motive to read the whole text. The same tendency was clearly seen in the military journalism: the headlines in the American variant are made as a short text content, while the Russian headlines are made as a bright sign which is supposed to attract attention.

Keywords: Military journalismrhetoric traditionsemioticssigntitle


The headline complex is the first text sign which in various traditions can be either an opening, conceived as the beginning of a text representing signs chain, or a metasign, whose signified is the whole text. In other words, the headline can be a brief retelling of the text – the topic opening-naming unit, in the ancient Roman rhetorical tradition, – or the entire text identification with a non-trivial title, in the Byzantine rhetorical tradition.

The two rhetorical traditions – the ancient Roman one and the Byzantine one – worked on the question of text composition, including its opening, in different ways. This study examines ancient Roman rhetoric by following the model of Marcus Fabius Quintilianus’ “Institutes of Oratory”, a twelve-volume textbook, in which the author introduces the eight-part scheme implying that, at the beginning of the text, the author sets starting coordinates – they name the topic (Quintilian, n.d.).

Byzantine rhetoric, the tradition of which is inherited by the Russian manner of text composition perception, has its origins in the writings of Aphthonius, whose scheme is reproduced in the manuals of Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov, Nikolay Fyodorovich Koshansky. In such a scheme, the first text sign is a so-called “introduction” – the text beginning which does not retell the text itself but defines it by means of the words of a famous figure. The scheme invented by Aphthonius was originally included in the academic context (in contrast to Quintilian’s scheme which was conceived for the judicial rhetoric), and the first phrase or a speech “opening” unit was some famous person’s words given to students as a topic (Avtoniy, 1805).

In other words, the speech beginning strategic component, in the Byzantine tradition, is, in a way, self-debasement on the part of the orator, who does not speak for themselves but build their speech upon the words of some authority – a great man, or a nationally recognised authority (or, if the speech develops a theme, it can be started with a proverb, for example). In Quintilian’s scheme, the speaker says in their own words, and there is a well-founded reason for it: the scheme was originally intended for oral arguments in judicial proceedings, and prosecutors and lawyers built their speeches of accusation or defense in accordance with the scheme. In this case, the speaker does not make themselves the focus of attention because the main character is not them, but the defendant and the speaker's task is to decide his fate.

The tradition development of both the ancient Roman and Byzantine performance schemes has gone far enough from its initial origin. In particular, Quintilian’s scheme, that gave rise to the medieval ordo naturalis in which there were no longer 8 parts, like in Quintilian’s, but 6, was developed in the scientific world: it is from the canon of Quintilian that, in scientific research, it is supposed to study the issue background, formulate the problem and its further development. Aphthonius’ scheme has found greater use in religious eloquence, in the Orthodox and Old Believers tradition, because the scheme traditional element of its opening – a reference to the words of an authoritative person – was consistent with the main task of a sermon as a genre (Bezmenova, 1991).

The quality press headlines study showed that in most cases the Anglo-American tradition inherits ancient Roman rhetoric – the headline is a condensed content of the text, and the reader, especially while perceiving hypertext, sees the headline and then decides whether to perceive the text (Budaev & Chudinov, 2017; Druzhininskaya, 2018). The “Byzantine tradition” headline, which found greater continuation in the Russian press, is also intended to draw the reader’s attention, but through, in a way, a “deceptive” technique: the title does not indicate what the text is about, but only promises something interesting – and one of the variants of this promise is a reference to the words of an authority.

Problem Statement

An interesting question is the analysis of the English-language and the Russian-language traditions of military journalism publicistic text headline choice: the scope and the target audience of military journalism are quite specific, and we can assume that there is no need to “lure” the audience in this regard.

Research Questions

This study includes a number of questions, in particular:

3.1. Text headline choice strategy study in Russian and American military journalism;

3.2. Consideration of the interaction of the identified strategies with the text opening rhetorical tradition;

3.3. Comparative analysis of various national journalistic headline choice strategies.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to identify an invariant strategy of the relationship between headline and text on the material of Russian and American military journalism. This implies the formulation of the following tasks:

Research Methods

Comparison of the structure and the content of a headline with the structure and the content of the text to which the headline relates was used as a research method.


Ready-made text compositions have long been used in the rhetorical tradition of antiquity: the existence of a ready-made composition was equated with a form of “the golden ratio” and, as in other fields of art, the canon predetermined the perception of content. The audience member of antiquity was prepared for a certain thoughts presentation order – just as, in drama, they were not interested in the novelty of what was stated, but in the ability of a certain author to cope with a certain well-known plot within the framework of the canon (Nkealah & Nortjé, 2018).

The scheme developed by Marcus Fabius Quintilianus includes eight components: 1. exordium, 2. topic naming, 3. narration, 4. description, 5. proof, 6. refutation, 7. proclamation, 8. peroration (Quintilian, n.d.). The fundamental element of this scheme is to name the topic – before delivering the speech content, the orator must indicate what exactly is to be discussed. This idea seems trivial, however, in many rhetorical traditions, the audience learns about the speech topic near the end – thus, many schemes designed for advertising impact or incentive suggest that, at the beginning of the text, the audience's attention is drawn by various kinds of judgments indirectly related to the topic. In all these schemes, the audience member learns about the topic only at the end of the speech when it is supposed to move to action – the audience member is invited to take some measures, to buy something, to vote for a certain politician, etc. (Ivanova, 2017; Katermina & Solovyeva, 2019; Kirillova et al., 2019).

Marcus Fabius us suggests that the topic should be identified at the very beginning in order not to manipulate the audience, but to let them in on the topic from the very beginning so that they could not perceive the speech if the subject is not interesting to them. Since Quintilian’s scheme was originally conceived for competitive judicial eloquence, topic naming is its indispensable element – the speaker indicates his position so that the audience understands what exactly the speaker will stand up for and how exactly his performance will be arranged compositionally.

This scheme extension to all spheres of eloquence was not originally intended by Quintilian – it happened when the scheme was transformed into the so-called “natural order” ( ordo naturalis ) of medieval rhetoric. In fact, the European tradition of rhetoric was not interrupted: Quintilian’s scheme was repeatedly reproduced in an abridged six-part form as the so-called ordo naturalis or “natural order”: introduction, narration, proposal, consolidation, refutation, peroration (Bezmenova, 1991, p. 89). This “natural order” was introduced as the opposite of the “artificial” one and was seen as a reflection of the natural order of things (Quam & Ryshina-Pankova, 2016).

An alternative text composition was developed in the Byzantine tradition and also included eight parts – number eight had a sacred semantic halo in the ancient world and implied harmony and text completeness. Aphthonius, an orator of Byzantium, who worked in the 4th century AD, developed a scheme that suggested a different approach to the topic consideration and to the text beginning development. In accordance with this scheme, the text beginning is conceived as a reference to the words of a great man: Aphthonius’ scheme was included in the pedagogical eloquence context which did not suggest competition: introducing new information on the basis of what was already stated, the teacher relied on the words of an authority and the students were instructed to do the same. Aphthonius also did not attribute universality to his scheme assuming in it a well-thought-out version of text amplification for students. Its eight parts were: 1. introduction to the text, 2. paraphrasis, 3. reason, 4. contradiction, 5. similarity, 6. example, 7. evidence, 8. conclusion (Avtoniy, 1805). In the “introduction”, the speaker was supposed to define the saying of a great man, which was the topic of the speech, in the paraphrasis – to rephrase the saying for the audience again, and further to prove its consistency in terms of the specified arguments – reason why this statement is true, proof by contradiction, proof by comparison (similarity), etc.

The opening text tradition – someone’s dictum – anchored in the practice of the eloquence in preaching, Old Believers rhetoric of Rus', and became a part of Russian rhetoric as retold by Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov, and later – by Nikolay Fyodorovich Koshansky. The tradition of building up student speeches according to Aphthonius’ scheme continued until the beginning of the 20th century – the study of the scheme was a part of the classical course of gymnasium rhetoric and implied the ability to develop argumentation (Druzhininskaya, 2018; Shuyskaya, 2017).

An analysis of the modern press showed (Sineleva, 2019; Toropkina, 2019) that modern strategy of text headline choice follows adopted in the Roman and the Greek texts traditions – thus, English-language journalism more often refers to the “topic naming” when the text headline is a condensed plot, while Russian journalism more often refers to the words of an authority. Military journalism continues the outlined strategy and we will demonstrate it later with examples.

As a material for the Russian military journalism analysis, we consider the headlines of the Zvezda portal and its various sections: Armiya Russii, Geopolitika, Oruzheinaya komnata (Zvezda, 2020). These texts were originally written for the Web, i.e. they have the form of hyperlinks, and it is a headline and a small text passage that the reader’s decision whether to perceive the text completely is based on. A sufficiently large corpus of text headlines on these sites represents a link to the words of an authoritative source, for example:

Major General Mikhail Zusko: “The Caucasus-2020 strategic command post exercise will be the main examination of this year”

Major General of the Guards Sergey Kisel: “The most important thing for a tank crew member is to hold his nerve in battle and to have a perfect command of military machinery”

Shoygu – NATO: “Come out and we will play!”

Capitan 1st Rank Denis Sharypov: “Constant readiness to ship out is the normal state of every submariner”

Army General Anatoly Kulikov: “The war in Chechnya was the result of a number of mistakes made by the then political leaders of Russia”

In some cases, a statement without identification of its author was enclosed into a headline:

“This Has Never Happened”: Historical and Ultra-modern Russian Weapons Demonstration

Along with the headlines, which are a reference to an authority, there is also a sufficiently representative number of the headlines that reproduce the ancient Roman tradition: the headline briefly retells the text content, for example:

Pandemic Saved Norway from “Nuclear War”

Every Sixth Plane or Tank Is Built on Private Contributions

Washington Is Spinning A New Round of The Nuclear Arms Race. For Whose Benefit?

To compare the English-language tradition with the Russian-language one, The National Interest portal was chosen, where military journalism is located in the Military section (National Interest, 2020). Even a skimming of the headlines from the portal main page demonstrates the complete absence of headlines built according to Aphthonius’ model: in the portal Military section none of the headlines begins with a link to someone’s authority:

This Was the U.S. Navy’s Very First Modern Combat Drone Carrier

Iran’s Ababil 3 Drone Might Be a Bribe from a South African Telecom Company

Why the U.S.-North Korea Nuclear Showdown Simply Won't End

Iran’s Karrar Main Battle Tank: Russian Technology with a Bad Paint Job?

The headline is a “condensed retelling” of the text – in fact, after reading this passage, the reader must decide whether to read or not to read the further text. It should be noted that the portal design itself is somewhat different from the Russian counterpart – on The National Interest, only the title itself, without a lead paragraph and without the beginning of the text, is given as a link to go to the full text. The Russian Zvezda portal design is organized in such a way that, after a headline, there is a text fragment – a part of the first paragraph, so that the reader can perceive the approximate text content based on these starting coordinates.

Thus, in Russian military journalism, there is a tendency to use headlines – links to an authoritative source. The overall amount of such headlines is approximately 40% of the total number of the headlines collected over a given period. In the English-language tradition of military journalism, such headlines are absent altogether: the analyzed corpus of a comparable number of the headlines did not reveal a single headline built on a similar model.


The modern military journalism texts analysis revealed that the headline and the text in this branch of journalism interact within the framework of the corresponding cultural tradition general journalism trend. The Anglo-American cultural tradition inherits ancient Roman rhetoric and in the English press, it is assumed that the headline presents the text topic, performing the “topic naming” in the tradition of Marcus Fabius Quintilianus. In the era of the text electronic existence, such a headline predetermines the reader’s decision: in fact, having studied only the headlines in a certain mass media, the reader can get a general idea of the latest news by clicking only on the links that really interest them.

In Russian military journalism, there is a tendency to use the headline-saying that inherits the tradition of the Byzantine author of the rhetoric manual – Aphthonius. An appeal to the dictum allows to connect the text with a certain authoritative source (in military journalism, such a source is often a General reporting new information about weapons or the situation in the army), which brings the common text format closer to a sermon format. The purpose of a sermon is to connect current events with a timeless context, to provide a logical connection between what is happening in this particular community (parish) and a sacred text of this religion (for example, the Bible). This manner demonstrates that in Russian military journalism, unlike Anglo-American military journalism, certain constants and a conditional sacred context, which may not be related to religion but is conceived as a constant, are assumed. It should be noted that such texts are not the majority, however, among the analyzed corpus of material, there is a certain representative number of the texts that have a precedent statement or words from an authoritative source as a headline (in a comparable English-language material – not a single one).

It is interesting, that further text deployment in the Byzantine or the Roman style is not represented in the relevant traditions – only the context of the interaction between the opening and the text itself is preserved.


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