9 January 1937 |
Romford, Essex, England
Born in Romford, Essex, Nicholson attended the University of Leicester and is one of the world's most decorated and longest serving British television correspondents. Nicholson joined ITV in 1964 and over the ensuing forty years he reported from 18 war zones: Biafra, Israel, Vietnam, Cambodia, Congo, Cyprus, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Indo-Pakistan, Northern Ireland, Falklands, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, the Gulf Wars, 'Desert Storm' 1991 and 'Shock and Awe,' Baghdad 2003.
During the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in July 1974, Nicholson's car broke down just as Turkish paratroopers were landing over his head onto the island . Nicholson walked up to the first of them and greeted them with 'I'm Michael Nicholson. Welcome to Cyprus'. His film was flown back to London on an RAF plane and made the Evening News the next day. A world scoop.
In 1975, Nicholson went to South Vietnam, and reported several events followed by the Fall of Saigon, including the battle of Newport Bridge (Cầu Tân Cảng), a key passway where ARVN soldiers fighting the last stand against PAVN troops and Vietcong heading for the capital, and the US Embassy gathered around by thousands of panic Vietnamese citizens trying to leave the country by American helicopters. Nicholson got into the embassy compound in the afternoon on April 29, and took one helicopter to USS Hancock (CV-19) waiting in the South China Sea.
Nicholson was ITN’s first bureau chief in South Africa, based in Johannesburg from 1976 to 1981 and the first television correspondent to be allowed to live in apartheid South Africa, a brief covering Africa from Cape Town to the Sahara. During this time Nicholson covered the Soweto riots, spent much time in UDI Rhodesia covering the war of independence and was the first foreign journalist to interview Robert Mugabe on his release from prison.
In 1978 he and his cameraman Tom Phillips and sound recordist Micky Doyle, were in Angola to interview the UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi. Pursued by Cuban mercaneries working for the communist MPLA government, they were trapped and spent for four and a half months in the bush, walking a total of 1,500 miles, trying to escape. They were eventually airlifted out in a dramatic escape.
In 1981 he returned to England, motoring overland through Africa and Europe with his wife Diana and two small sons, Tom and William, a six month journey of some twelve thousand miles, recorded in the book 'Across the Limpopo'.
Nicholson was on holiday in the Lake District when the Falklands War began. Flown by a chartered aircraft to Southampton he boarded the aircraft carrier 'HMS Hermes' for the six week journey to the South Atlantic. At 45 years old, Nicholson was more experienced than all his journalistic colleagues: "But this was the first war, other than Northern Ireland, where I was among my own people. It made it a very special war and the Falklands a very special place." Nicholson and BBC journalist Brian Hanrahan (on his first major foreign story)were regularly flown over to the Royal Fleet auxiliary ships to broadcast their phoned reports, as broadcasting from Royal Navy ships was forbidden. After the conflict, Nicholson was awarded the South Atlantic Medal
Career as newsreader (1976–1986)
Following the war, Nicholson became the television newscaster on ITN's popular News at 545. His friendly face, pleasant smile, and light, cheerful presentation style earned him a reputation as one of the leading figures of British journalistic television at a time when the BBC's news presenters were often accused of being aloof and characterless. Yet he earned a reputation as a very serious and gritty news gatherer and as an interviewer who could be sharp with his views, particularly towards politicians. However, Nicholson's newsreading career ended when he resigned in March 1986 and went back 'on the road'. He became Channel 4's Washington Correspondent for ‘Breakfast News' in 1989 and ITN's Chief Foreign Correspondent 1989-1999.
Return to news reporting
On resuming his career as a war reporter, Nicholson joined the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Gloucester reporting on the Gulf war in 1991, and in 1992 reported the Balkan war, based mainly in Sarajevo. He was named the Royal Television Society's 'Journalist of the Year' in 1991, later winning the title three times. In 1998 the Royal Television Society named him 'Specialist Reporter of the Year’, and in 1992 he was given BAFTA's prestigious 'Richard Dimbleby Award' for Services to Television; in 1976 the International Film and Television Monte Carlo Silver Nymph Award for his reports from Vietnam. He was an EMMY Honours finalist in 1969 for 'Christmas in Biafra' and 'Shooting the Messenger' in 2009, a Sony Broadcasting Awards Finalist in 2007 and three times Gold Medallist in New York's Broadcasting Guilds Award.
1999-2009 Reporter-Presenter for ITV’s current affairs programme ‘Tonight’. A regular contributor-presenter for BBC Radio 2 and 4. Documentaries include ‘Falklands Families’, ‘Civvy Street’, “Vietnam”, ‘Churchill’, ‘Archive Hour’. Contributor to ‘Sunday Times’, ’ Economist’, ‘Daily Telegraph’, ‘Daily Express’, ‘Daily Mail’, ‘Spectator’.
Falklands and Gulf Campaign Medals. In 1992 he was awarded the OBE from HM Queen Elizabeth II
Fiction: The Partridge Kite, Red Joker, December Ultimatum, Pilgrim's Rest. Non Fiction: A Measure of Danger, Across the Limpopo, Natasha's Story, A State of War Exists - Reporters in the Line of Fire.
While reporting from Sarajevo in 1992 Nicholson found 200 orphans living in a mortared and shelled building - four had already been killed. Nicholson pleaded with the authorities to evacuate them, including Natasha, a nine-year-old who had been abandoned by her mother. He smuggled her out of the country, claiming her as his daughter, and handing her to the immigration authorities at Heathrow. Despite protests from the Bosnian authorities and journalistic critics, Nicholson succeeded in adopting her. Nicholson published his experiences in his book, "Natasha's Story" on which the film Welcome to Sarajevo is based. Natasha attended local state primary and secondary schools near her home in Surrey and later gained an HND in sports science from the University of Bath.
Now 78 years of age, Nicholson lives with his wife Diana, two sons Thomas and William, and adopted daughter Natasha in Grayswood, Haslemere, Surrey. He also has a daughter called Ana, whom he adopted from Brazil. Ana now has a son called Maxi.