"He read the newspaper."
Translation:Er las die Zeitung.
Er hat die Zeitung gelesen would be translated into English the same way, would it not?
Yes, but this is a lesson on the Preterite. Duolingo is trying to teach us both past tenses.
That is, when it isn't also trying to teach us present and subjunctive tenses in this lesson! ^^
"las" is really wrong spoken here, sounds like "lass" and that's a completely different word; it has to be spoken with a long 'a'
It would be good, if Duolingo would put an information about the subject of given exercise. I was doing this excercise as "Strengthen skills" (the general option) and didn't know, that I should use Preterite here. Generally, in that case "Er liest die Zeitung" is perfectly correct as well, as from the English sentence it is not known if it is present or past.