Behind the scenes of the USA Today list that says downtown Dallas has the best skyline on the planet, there is a team of three expert panelists who provided commentary on all of the cities for the winning skylines slide show. Of those three panelists, two of them are architects who live and work in Dallas. Is USA Today's skyline ranking corrupt?
One of the Dallas architects assures us that the experts had no say in the final decision. Choosing the best skyline "was up to the readers," says panelist Preston Kissman. "We just provided descriptions to each."
And so it is the general American public, or at least the Americans who read USA Today, who voted for Dallas. Maybe there was a pro-Dallas bias among the readers who voted, but that's only a guess, because we have no information about the voter demographics.
USA Today's press kit does provide some insight into the magazine's general readership: "Our products, with their bold color and graphics, appeal to our reader who research shows is visually driven, imaginative and artistic." Visually driven and likes getting news from graphics? Sounds like the same type of people who would be impressed by a lot of neon lights and a big penis-shaped tower.
Besides Kissman, the other local architect on the panel is James Adams. Both work at Corgan Associates, a big architecture firm with a long history in Dallas.
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Kissman became a panelist through an old college friend who works at USA Today, he says. He and the two other architects were responsible for picking 20 cities to nominate as the best skyline and writing positive things about each, before turning the blurbs over to readers to fight over the top 10 rankings.
There were some cities that readers never got a chance to vote on. Berlin, for example, never made the list of 20 nominees because "you have to cut off the line at some point," Kissman says. The decision to leave Las Vegas off the nominee list also caused a slight amount of controversy. The Las Vegas skyline is obviously iconic and recognizable, "but not necessarily an architectural gem," Kissman says.
Kissman says he agrees with America's assessment that Dallas is number one, though admits he's biased. He sounds mildly surprised that Dallas won the poll.
"I forgot to look at it in the last couple of weeks," Kissman says. "I didn't realize we were actually first place."