Jim Baseman turned a layoff into a write-up on builders


In Jim Baseman's case, two wrongs did make a right.

A frustrating experience in 1987 with the builder of his first house, plus getting laid off in 1993 from his job as a senior systems engineer at Westinghouse Electric, led to the creation of Maryland Service Review. Jim Baseman, of White Hall, is the publisher.

Less than three months after Mr. Baseman lost his job, the Review, "a bi-monthly newsletter for Maryland consumers," debuted.

"Ever since the problems with my house, I had thought there should be a source consumers can go to for objective reports on builders," he says. And now he has the time to supply it himself.

The first issue explained the purpose, the area covered (metropolitan Baltimore), that no advertising would be accepted (to ensure objectivity), that the cost is $15 a year. Mr. Baseman then went on to compare the rates of area plumbers, evaluate a local builder and ask readers to suggest future topics.

No. 2 included a profile of a custom-home builder, a rate and service comparison on lawn-care firms and a price comparison of auto parts dealers. No. 3 has just been released.

"Some people call it a local Consumer Reports," says Mr. Baseman, 35, "but I don't do product reviews. I do service and business reviews."

Assistant Attorney General Rebecca Bowman of the Consumer Protection Division says the state cannot endorse any private publication, but the Review "is not something we'd say to stay away from."

Mr. Baseman evaluates construction projects with his engineer's eye. He also checks Consumer Protection for complaints and county and bankruptcy court files for legal actions.

"I'm a one-man band," he says. "I have to get everything right because there's a risk of libel and defamation if I don't."

His wife, Judy, helps with editing and clerical work. She's done some interviews and, he says, "keeps the kids [Katie, 6, Jimmy, 3, and Joey, 2] quiet."

To order the newsletter, call (410) 329-6394.

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