Nicholson joined ITN in 1964 and was the network’s senior foreign correspondent between 1989 and 1999.
He died while on a cruise with his wife Diana.
ITN chief executive John Hardie said he was a “true legend”.
Nicholson presented reports from around the world on ITV’s flagship current affairs programme Tonight.
In 1976, he became ITN’s first bureau chief in South Africa and was the first television correspondent to live in the country during apartheid.
He also witnessed the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad at the end of the Iraq War in 2003.
Former ITN presenter Sir Trevor McDonald said Nicholson “almost single-handedly changed the face of TV news reporting”.
ITV News presenter Alastair Stewart said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the death of ITN giant Mike Nicholson”.
Mr Hardie added “Michael Nicholson is rightly regarded as a true legend of ITN.
“As a journalist he is renowned and revered throughout our industry and beyond for his courage, his intelligence, and his compassion.”
In a statement, his family described him as “an amazing father, devoted grandfather, loving husband and dear friend”.
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