Maples in, Cornish Jr. out at WGEM

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Anchor/reporter Rajah Maples started at WGEM-TV this month while Sports Director Tony Cornish, Jr. has departed. (WGEM-TV)

QUINCY — One familiar face is returning to the local airwaves while another is departing.

Rajah Maples, a Northeast Missouri native and long-time reporter/anchor at KHQA-TV, is now reporting and anchoring Saturday night newscasts on WGEM-TV.

Maples, a University of Missouri School of Journalism Master’s program graduate, left KHQA after seeing her role downsized as that station’s owners, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, reduced staff at Quincy’s ABC/CBS affiliate and centralized its newscasts for the Quincy and Springfield markets out of Champaign.

While longtime television staples Rich Cain and Tegan Orpet still handle weather for KHQA and the dean of local sports, Chris Duerr, still shows highlights and tells stories of the area’s high school and college athletes, the news is anchored by a variety of people located three hours away.

Maples said the move across town wasn’t planned, but as she approached one year of being off the air, she was looking for her next chapter.

“I just wanted some quiet time to figure out what was next,” she said. “I had a great 11 months off, but I cleaned my garage 20 times and said to myself ‘there has to be something next’. I started looking and WGEM had an opening. It was serendipity. I’m very excited.”

And while she is currently anchoring Saturday night newscasts and training on the station’s editing and newscast producing systems, she said she is working with station management and “brainstorming some ideas for the future”.

“I’m excited about the possibilities,” she said.

Maples had been with KHQA since 2005 and while Quincy Media (formerly Quincy Newspapers, Inc.) no longer owns WGEM, having sold to Gray Television in 2021, she said she does have a connection to the company’s roots.”

“T.A. Oakley (former President/CEO of Quincy Newspapers, Inc.) was my first boss as a newspaper delivery girl in LaGrange, Missouri,” she said. “I won a delivery contest and T.A. took a bunch of us to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. He was the only adult on the bus besides the driver.”

Ben Van Ness, the vice-president and general manager of WGEM and one of Oakley’s grandsons, said adding Maples was “a great opportunity.”

“WGEM is always looking to add talented journalists to our News Department,” Van Ness said. “We have a very talented team right now. As many know, Rajah already has a wealth of experience reporting and anchoring in our market. She will be doing that very same thing for WGEM, anchoring on Saturday nights and reporting during the week. Rajah is a very talented journalist and we welcome her to the WGEM family.”

The NBC affiliate is also seeing a change in its sports department as Sports Director Tony Cornish, Jr. has left the station.

Cornish, who has 31 years of sportscasting experience at stations mostly in the southeastern part of the United States, replaced Ben Marth in anchoring the station’s weekday sportscasts in 2018.

Cornish’s last day on air was June 16 and WGEM posted the job opening on its Website June 20.

Cornish was hired by WGEM’s previous news director, Chad Mahoney, who left the station in May to take over as the executive director of the Missouri Broadcasters Association. John Ehrhardt succeeded Mahoney as the station’s news director.

“Tony has been a big part of our success at WGEM over the past five years,” Van Ness said. “He has won many awards while working at WGEM and forged strong relationships with area teams and their coaches. He has been a presence off the air as well, involved in community initiatives and volunteering at a countless number of fundraising activities. We wish him well going forward and are very appreciative of the five years he gave WGEM, our community, and our student athletes.”

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