1. It's not news. He's been investing in tech startups for a long time. Maybe as long as he's been doing TechCrunch. Depends on how you score it. TechCrunch was a blog he started when he and Keith Teare were launching a company called Edgeio. The blog turned out to be a better business, but Mike never claimed to be a journalist.
2. Journalism itself is becoming obsolete. I know the reporters don't want to hear this, and they're likely to blast me, even try to get me "fired" (it's happened before) because at least for the next few months I hang my hat at a J-school. I happen to think journalism was a response to publishing being expensive. It cost a lot of money to push bits around the net before there was a net. They had to have huge capital-intensive printing plants, fleets of trucks and delivery boys with paper routes. Now we can hear directly from the sources and build our own news networks. It's still early days for this, and it wasn't that long ago that we depended on journalists for the news. But in a generation or two we won't be employing people to gather news for us. It'll work differently.
3. Mike is and always has been a Source that Goes Direct. You can say whatever you want about his personality, I don't think that's particularly relevant (and I speak as someone who has been blasted personally and publicly by Mike). There's no doubt that he has access to ideas and information that the rest of us want, with or without conflicts. So we will read him, whether he's employed by AOL or goes back to being a individual blogger like Fred Wilson or Brad Feld. If I were AOL, I would try to keep Mike, and learn how to fold in other highly-opinionated, conflicted, but well-informed people to blog for them. Without a second thought. No matter what the reporters say (they have the biggest conflicts, they want to keep their jobs).
4. I've always felt that Mike should be an active investor and not in the informal way he was doing it. I saw Ben Rosen rise to the top of tech investing in the 80s based on access to information like the flow that Mike has. Their temperments couldn't be more different, but the idea is the same. This is how you can get comfortable with it.
5. Kara Swisher calls what Mike is doing "Pig Pile Partners" with other cute mud slings. She's right though. Slicon Valley is all about feeding at the trough and next-to-nothing about the idealism that many of us felt about the technology. The pigs always push aside the idealists, because they're willing to do the things the others won't do. And like the Republicans in Washington, unfortunately, that's a winning strategy, at least short term. I tried to solve the problem by leaving Silicon Valley, and writing software I believe in, and doing the best I can. For me it's never been primarily about money. I like money, up to a point -- but I'm really in it for the wonderful things you can do with the tech. It's an end in itself, not a means to an end. Kara does the best she can to deal with the trough-feeding-frenzy, but she must have to do a fair amount of it to be competitive in the business she's in.
I will add that the Republicans couldn't exist without the founding fathers who did a wonderful idealistic job with the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Likewise with tech, we have the foundations laid by the pioneers of the Internet. They give us something to hope for, even when the pigs are eating our seed corn. :-(