Speaking at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill., Tuesday night, Woodward said he once told Eric Schmidt, then chief executive officer of Google, that some day his epitaph would read, "I killed newspapers."
Woodward, who helped expose the Watergate scandal that toppled President Richard Nixon in the 1970s, predicted it may require a disastrous decline in the news business before people appreciate the importance of journalism, The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reported.
"There is something that is going to happen, that we are going to miss," he said. "We will miss some vital story and then people will say, 'Where were you?' Then people with money will say, 'Well, we will have to invest in information.'"
"What we should worry about most is secret government," he said. "That is what will do us in. We need to know what is going on."
Woodward described President Barack Obama as "a divided man. Sometimes, contradictory ideas are roommates in his mind."
He also took part in a daylong civics conference for high school students at the suburban Chicago university.