Former chief reporter for the News of the World Neville Thurlbeck has called for "reform of revolutionary proportions" within the press in an address to the Cambridge Union.
Thurlbeck said "the print media are at a crossroads" in a speech that also warned of the danger of losing reader trust.
"If our readers don’t like the tone of what they read or don't trust it, they will keep falling away in the millions until paper upon paper, we fail and vanish from the streets."
He also highlighted the ability of the Leveson inquiry to act as "a springboard" to improvements.
In his speech Thurlbeck was also critical of the culture select committee's report into phone-hacking.
The committee's report, published earlier this month, accused News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch of not being "a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company".
The report added that "corporately the News of the World and News International misled the committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigation they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking", and accused the company of seeking to "cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing".
This part of the report divided the committee, with the conclusion voted in by a majority of six to four.
At the time of the report's publication MP Philip Davies said the suggestion that Murdoch is not fit to run a major international company was "completely ludicrous", while Louise Mensch added she felt this part of the report was "stuck in".
But MP Tom Watson said there was a need "to raise the bar".
On Wednesday night Thurlbeck alleged that the conclusion against Murdoch's fitness to run a company could set a "dangerous parliamentary precedent".
"It is up to the readers and ultimately the shareholders, to decide whether Rupert Murdoch is a fit and proper person to run News Corporation", he added.