Federal Way scouts earn Pink Floyd badge | Andy Hobbs

A version of the album cover for Pink Floyd
A version of the album cover for Pink Floyd's 1975 classic rock masterpiece 'Wish You Were Here.'
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Why is that guy on fire?

That’s the number one question Cub Scouts ask when entering my office. Scouts often tour newspaper buildings to earn merit badges, and Federal Way scouts sometimes visit The Mirror.

This paper prints in Everett, which means the so-called tours in Federal Way are quiet and simple. The Mirror is just like any small office with desks, computers and a lunchroom/storage/recycling area. Let’s not forget about the two bathrooms, where many ideas are born.

The tour eventually reaches my office in the back. The scouts immediately notice the poster of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” classic rock masterpiece. The surreal album cover shows two businessmen shaking hands in an empty movie studio lot. One of the suit-clad men is engulfed in orange flames while cracking a smile.

Every scout group that tours this office asks: Why is that guy on fire?

The real answer, of course, would fly over their innocent heads. Released in 1975, “Wish You Were Here” criticized the music industry and corporate greed. If the scouts were earning a Pink Floyd merit badge, we could plug in a lava lamp, play the album and analyze the cover. Maybe the flaming guy represents the devil in whatever deal is taking place between the two executives. As one article suggests, the cover reflects the idea of people hiding their real feelings to avoid “getting burned.” Either way, a merit badge with this artwork (or the “Dark Side of The Moon” prism logo) would look super cool.

However, the scouts come here to learn about newspapers, and they are delightfully curious. The flaming man steps aside while the scouts ask how The Mirror gets made. They want to know how long we’ve been here, who we meet, what we find, when we eat lunch, where we print the paper and why we’re here in the first place. Before parting ways, they’ll watch a couple of The Mirror’s news videos, and I’ll preach about the power of the printed word. Lives and laws can change for better or worse, I tell them, because of words printed in ink on paper. I praise the pen for being mightier than the sword, hoping that if the scouts remember one thing from our time together, it’s this notion.

Much like the Pink Floyd album cover, the meaning of the press is easier to comprehend as a grownup.

That said, the educational and character-building experiences of Cub Scouts help shape these youngsters into well-rounded adults. Kudos to all Federal Way scouts for their thoughtful questions on the newspaper tour.

And why is that guy on fire? Because he wants you to ask.

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