Feb 24, 2010

Cecille Avila

By Ben Austin

Cecille Avila fits the mold of a convergence journalism reporter.

Avila, a 19-year-old Arlington, Massachusetts native, is a photography lover with a dash of insomnia who has a knack for blogging and graphic design and believes that it is possible to have a meaningful conversation with anyone. Add that to a natural addiction to news and you've got the recipe for the journalist of the future.

"I've always loved reading the news because I viewed it as a story that never finished," explained Avila, who maintains her own cooking blog. "I want to inform and educate people, and use writing in a proactive way."

Though her life now revolves around writing and photography, Avila's childhood love was the violin. Growing up, her hope was to become a professional musician. In high school her love for music led her to theater and the performing arts community. This was the outlet she used to meet most of her high school friends and showcase her individuality.

"Cecille is very much herself," said Julia Rocha, a high school friend. "She's not afraid to be herself all the time, which is refreshing for me."

Now, as a print journalism and marketing major at Emerson College, Avila maintains that sense of individualism that drove her through high school. Her paintings, polaroids and christmas lights dangle from the walls of her excessively organized dorm room. Her blog is cluttered with photos of her travels, daily life, and most prominently chocolate chip cookies and assorted cakes she baked herself.

Avila openly admits she is very easily distracted and finds herself constantly leaping through short-lived phases of interest.

"I'm kind of all over the place," she admits. "I'll like something for a short period of time and then two weeks later I'll move on to something else."

Much like the journalism industry, Avila is at a crossroads, unsure about the exact details of her future. Even so, Avila insists that she now has dreams of combining her obsession with photography and her lust for travel to work or intern for National Geographic, a starkly different path than her childhood dream of becoming a famous violinist.

"She definitely came a long way from the time she was really young to where she is now," said Mary Avila, her 24-year-old sister.

Ariel Shearer

By Megan Donovan

Every one of Ariel Shearer’s previous birthdays, at least since she turned 11, had ended badly. She calls this day, Jan 29, cursed.

This year, Shearer woke up and got ready for lunch with her father. After lunch, he brought her home, where the band Buffalo Soul was practicing their set for the night’s show in their basement. She then drove three hours with the band to a venue in Albany, N.Y., to see them play with the band that began her love of reggae, John Brown’s Body. She continued on to Vermont with the band in a last-minute decision, and was greeted with “crepes and VIP guestlist action,” as guitarist Tubby Love put it.

Shearer cites the discovery of reggae at age 16 as a reason to keep an optimistic outlook on life. “That's what reggae's all about.. rising up and speaking out, but speaking in happy tones, and recognizing the power of positive music,” said Shearer. “Reggae held my hand in tough times.”

She tried picking up guitar in seventh grade but soon learned that her musical talent was not as good as her ear and desire to listen and write. Since she discovered the writing, Shearer has pursued journalism. It was after writing an opinion column for UMass’s Boston paper, titled ‘The Ariel View,’ that she applied to Emerson.

In her first semester, she started the Emerson chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and lobbying at the State House for the legalization of medical marijuana. “I watched government officials getting educated,” Ariel said. She has gained much support, even after just one semester, as attendance to the SSDP meetings had grown from six to thirty students in one semester, she said.

She recites one of her favorite aphorisms, “To learn, read; to know, write; to master, teach” as a way of describing her own interests for the future. Shearer says she can see herself teaching journalism to children in Jamaica. She is quick to reinforce that she wants to give children the tools to communicate their ideas so they have to ability to reach beyond their own island.

Nancy Shearer, Ariel’s mother, said she thinks music will always be a big part of her daughter’s life. “It has stimulated her in a positive way and I can see her as a publicist or PR person for a band,” Nancy said, in a telephone interview.
Shearer may have gotten started on that sort of work already with her blog “Future Roots: Conscious Reggae Exchange”, which recounts her experiences with music and the people who make it, a kind of, gonzo journalism, in the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson, author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

After spending three days with Buffalo Soul - sharing meals, stories, ideas and laughs with members of the band - Ariel has immersed herself in their world. She describes life as the “most righteous birthday weekend ever.”

On her 20th birthday, Shearer broke her bad luck birthday curse. She saw her three favorite bands in one night, ate the best falafel of her life, and her best friend, Tubby Love, sang and brought her a candle so she could make a birthday wish.

“Who needs cake when you have friends like that?” she said.