October 9, 2014

Bloomberg Politics got some attention Monday after an enterprising reporter noticed that navigating to a broken page on the site reveals this animation of Joe Biden shooting lightning at a revolving “404” symbol:

That got me thinking: how do other news organizations handle the dreaded error message? To find out, I went to a lot of sites and broke a lot of links. Here’s what I found:

Bloomberg Business

The recently launched Bloomberg Business website has a colorful error page, like several other sites throughout the company. This one features a polygonal businessman a laptop off a table in frustration, then collapsing into his constituent parts.


Billy Penn

If for some reason you stray across a broken page at local news startup Billy Penn, you’re greeted by an oil painting of William Penn, the site’s namesake, who delivers a gentle admonishment: “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”


The Chicago Tribune

Break a link at The Chicago Tribune and a dapper fellow named “Colonel Tribune” appears and introduces himself as the “Web ambassador for chicagotribune.com.” He suggests you search the site’s topics pages before bidding you a fond farewell.


Stars and Stripes

When you visit a broken page at the Stars and Stripes website, you get a mock-up of the newspaper’s front page, complete with “404” paratroopers repelling down to fix the problem. There’s all sorts of little jokes buried on this page, too — look at the flag and the story to the right.



The Boston Globe’s recently launched Catholic vertical features St. Anthony, the patron saint of the lost things. His prayer? “Grant that I may find the webpage which has been lost.”


San Diego Union-Tribune

What a pastoral scene. Here, a copy of the San Diego U-T sits awash on a beach somewhere like a castaway, clearly lost.


USA Today

USA Today’s “Entertain This” section features a picture of pop star Lionel Richie who sweet talks wayward viewers.


The Huffington Post

HuffPost attempts to soothe our anger at arriving at a broken page by showing us a picture of an adorable dog. You can almost feel your rage melt away as you look into the pooch’s contented eyes.



Motherboard, Vice’s future-of-technology vertical, makes up for the error with a purple horse galloping in a circle. Check it out. The screenshot doesn’t do this thing justice.


Nieman Lab

Our fellow media watchers over at Harvard offer this picture of a Linotype machine along with a tongue-in-cheek heading. Journalists will sympathize.


Philadelphia Inquirer

Speaking of newspapers, here’s the Philadelphia Inquirer’s error page: A cartoon reminiscent of the Sunday funnies, with a man falling into a news rack.



True to form, Vox.com offers us an explainer on the nuances of 404 pages in its distinctive yellow/blue/gray color scheme. Well played.



Vox Media’s video game vertical offers this fix for the 404 glitch: “pull out the URL and blow on it, and then slide it back into the browser (but not too far!) and wedge it in there with a second link. You’ll be good.”


The Verge

The Verge’s error page is a parody listicle titled “404 Most Influential People In Oops” that asks us nicely not to freak out.



And speaking of listicles, I’ll leave you with this. BuzzFeed’s 404 page looks completely normal, save for the disembodied head of a little girl peeking up at you from the bottom right corner. Weird.


Want more error pages? Time.com and The Huffington Post have both made lists of their favorites.

Know of any interesting error pages in media I’ve forgotten? Send me a link and I’ll add it to the list.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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