The benefits might also depend on which particular class is given the assignment. From a history teacher's perspective, he/she might be looking for specific national/world events that students may be studying or focusing on; for example, when I teach world literature to my 11th grade English class, I expect them to study current events from the particular culture that we are studying.
I also periodically assign newspaper articles to my speech classes in order to study effective opening statements, presentation of main ideas, etc. We also learn how they use persuasive techniques. These can be used in just about any English class as well.
Other teachers may focus on the business, arts/entertainment, or automotive section. We once had an art teacher that showed comic strips to demonstrate how to create images that are visually humorous, serious, etc.