Do you ever wonder how much the media has changed over the past 20-30 years? In the pre-internet days, the media's boundaries only extended as far as newspapers, magazines, radio and television, and the Web, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, e-mail and other online forms of communication were only a dream.

Heck, back in my college days in the 1970s, journalism students at Glassboro State College, Glassboro, N.J., were still carrying stacks of punchcards in their backpacks — if they were geeky enough to even take a computer class back in 1975-1979.

We might have had a clue just how much computers would change our professional lives as journalists if we paid close enough attention to our readings of Marshall McLuhan and his mantra, “the media is the message,” but many of us were more concerned with our next Frisbee game or, if we were more professionally inclined, how to break the next Watergate. This era wasn't all that long after the Washington Post's Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward broke the Watergate scandal in 1973.

Much has changed in journalism since those days, but one thing remains the same no matter what the medium: the responsibility to accurately report the news. “Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy,” one of my journalism professors would preach to us. It's a lesson I took to heart, and it leads me to a concern a reader voiced regarding EW's Top 200 listing, which appeared in the magazine's June issue. He believed several companies were ranked much higher than they deserved based on some market intelligence he had. We took a look at the distributors in question and saw that they were amongst approximately 20 companies that we had ranked based on their estimated sales-per-branch because we had not received any sales or employee data from them.

We tried this sales-per-branch estimating method for the first time this year. It was developed from the sales and branch data we received from a record 140 electrical distributors who provided 2009 sales, location and employee data. The average sales-per-branch for these Top 200 distributors came out to approximately $10 million.

After much reflection, I now realize that while our estimate was right on the money for many Top 200 companies, it doesn't work for all types of full-line electrical distributors, particularly those who run small branches staffed by three or four employees, and we will not use it to place distributors in future Top 200 rankings. In the future, if we don't receive sales or employee data from a company for two consecutive years and don't have a dependable means of ranking them with other publicly available data, then we won't include them in the Top 200. We will continue to rank distributors that only provide employee counts, because we can rank them using a more reliable sales-per-employee estimate.

We regret any confusion regarding the Top 200 that this estimating method may have caused. EW's editors continually fine-tune the Top 200 because it's such an important industry resource, and it looks like we may have stretched too far this year. If you have any questions on the Top 200 ranking, please contact me directly at jim.lucy@penton.com.

EW Hits ASBPE TRIFECTA

After publicly giving ourselves a swift kick in the pants for this erroneous estimating method, it's only fair that we pat ourselves on the back, too. EW recently won gold, silver and bronze awards in the 2010 National Awards Competition sponsored by the American Society of Business Press Editors (ASBPE). We won a Silver National Award for How-To Article with, “The Green Scene: 25 Ideas that Can Help You Sell More Electrical Products”; a Gold Western Region Award for the article series, “Technology: The Power & the Puzzles”; and a Bronze Western Region Award for the “Times and Trends” editorial.